A Town of Sidney staff report detailing the effects of snowmageddon speculates the Town might have made money, despite spending three times their snow budget.
Brian Robinson, Manager of Public Works and Parks, presented the report to council, March 25. In it, he explains the Town’s reaction to the recent weather events and makes recommendations for the future.
The annual budget for Snow Clearing and Removal is $35,588, which hasn’t changed since 2015. For most years, Town’s snow removal costs average $27,549, falling within budget. Snowmageddon, as the February snowfall is called in the report, cost $117,000.
However despite this large overspend, the report speculates it might not be as worrying as it appears.
“It is possible that savings generated in other budget areas (including those that were set aside while we responded to the snow event) will compensate for the overage in snow clearing. That is what happened in 2008, the last time that we had significant costs related to winter maintenance. In 2008, despite the $56,000 overage for snow clearing, overall operations generated a modest surplus.”
The report notes that council attracted criticism from some residents, but only received 15 items of official correspondence. All phone calls they received were passed on directly to relevant staff.
The report lists the equipment Town had at their disposal as three salting trucks equipped with articulating plows, a backhoe, two small front-end loaders, and a bobcat. The parks department had two snow blowers and Town staff were equipped with snow shovels. Additional vehicles were also rented.
Clearance crews had a big challenge, being responsible for clearing 55 kilometres of paved roads, 80 kilometres of sidewalks and 4,090 serviced lots.
The report reminds readers that Peninsula municipalities do not have vast reserves of equipment and big snow-response budgets as their counterparts on the Mainland do.
“Putting this capacity in place may not be cost effective, as in most years, the equipment may sit idle while we wait for the next big event. A tempering of public expectation – based on these realities – is likely a more cost effective solution. After all, the taxpayers would be the ones footing the bill for the enhanced level of service.”
A detailed breakdown of what the Town achieved and prioritized, such as access to seniors’ residences and traffic routes, shows the scale of the challenge they had to deal with. Plans were implemented to keep as many front-line workers working in 24 hour periods as possible, lines of supply open and access to mechanical workshops clear.
According to the report, the budget overage of $81,000 was mostly spent on additional hours of overtime for staff, hiring equipment and buying salt.
The reports adds that 25 tonnes of salt are always stockpiled, and Sidney has the capacity to store 50 tonnes of salt and 50 tonnes of dry sand in total. Their supplier can deliver additional tonnes within 24 hours.
In future, the report advises Town to use its new Emergency Operations Centre, which wasn’t available at the time of the snows.