The next Council discussion about snow clearing will take place on June 19th at Community and Public Services Committee.
While it seems a bit odd to be talking about snow and ice in June, this discussion will review successes and shortcomings of our snow clearing efforts over this past winter.
I know that the concerns about snow clearing in Edmonton have not gone away, and I share many of those concerns. More on that farther down.
I want to note however, that while there is work to do, we are finally getting factual, straight talk reports from City Administration. The latest report shows that there is work to do, that there will be negative effects next winter because City Council did not follow through on funding commitments at budget, and that if we are ever going to improve this service, Council must properly fund it and stop moving the goalposts.
The following graph shows the snow clearing budgets for last winter and the next three winters.
When we had this conversation last June, Administration clearly outlined budget increase options ahead of the 4-year budget deliberations last December. Council informally approved a budget increase of $42M over 4 years.
Because the winter season overlaps budget calendar years, Council also approved a $4.7M one time increase to allow Administration to get started hiring operators, acquiring equipment,etc. Council then reneged, and reduced the budget increase from $42M to $11M. Among other implications, that ramp up work Administration started in October 2022 resulted in unfunded costs between January and May 2023.
In short, funding will go down from winter 2022-23 to winter 2023-24, then will slowly increase over the coming years.In 2016, funding levels will return to 2018 levels. Of course, by 2026, the City will be much larger than it was in 2018. These are Council decisions, not Administrative ones, and I did not support them.
Last January, due to public pressure and pressure from the Mayor’s office, A Residential Parking Ban was enacted. The intent was to “dress” (smooth and compact) snow onto residential roads. But the snow was too soft, and this “dressing” effort became a blade to pavement and windrow exercise. The creation of windrows repeated the very negative experiences of the previous year, resulting in loss of parking, frozen drains, flooded sidewalks and significant mobility restrictions.
We need to remember this next winter, and stick to what we know - any effort that results in windrows should not take place. Period.
Following that Residential Snow Ban, I asked for you to send me your concerns regarding snow clearing. Following is a generalized summary of what I heard:
- Minimize bigtime snow removal during non-urgent times;
- Coordinating Snow Removal with Waste Services;
- Suspend bylaw enforcement of uncleared sidewalks during the big melt when windrows have made it impossible for the average homeowner to remove the ice. Spend the money on sanding those sidewalks instead;
- Keep the full width of the curb lane clear on - the windrow should be up on the boulevard, not on the curb and spilling into the road. This is particularly important on roads designated for bike travel (not bike lanes; shared roads);
- Be more selective. Just because a Residential Ban has been called does not mean we have to plow roads that don’t actually need it.
- Improve the notification process. Some didn’t get notifications and got ticketed and towed. Others got ticketed and towed after the plows went through. Let's exercise some judgement;
- Clear the drains when creating windrows;
- Don’t put windrows in bike lanes, or other places where they cause safety issues. School drop-off zones, for instance.
It is my intent to ask about these concerns at the June 19th committee meeting. If you have other concerns, please email me before then.
Again, while we continue to have challenges, and while the budget situation is challenging, I truly believe we have the right people in our snow clearing department to deliver better service. They are providing honest, clear reporting and doing the best they can with the resources they are given. We need to allow them to continue to refine and improve this service.
As always, I welcome your input and feedback on this or any other matter. Feel free to contact me at [email protected] or at 780-496-8130.
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