Okotoks: Mayor Bill Robertson suggests hiking emergency fund to $400,000

By: Don Patterson

  |  Posted: Friday, Jan 17, 2014 11:18 am

A bull-dozer pushes snow to the top of a growing pile of snow removed from Okotoks streets beside 32 Street.
A bull-dozer pushes snow to the top of a growing pile of snow removed from Okotoks streets beside 32 Street.
Jordan Verlage/OWW

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Okotoks’ mayor would like to see a big boost to the Town’s snow removal budget to have enough to clear snow from all roads in town after a major snowstorm if needed.

Mayor Bill Robertson said he’d be willing to boost an emergency snow removal fund to $400,000 to ensure Okotoks has the resources it needs to deal with major snowfall.

“We need to be prepared and have that money set aside,” he said. “The last thing we need to do is be sitting and saying we really need to clear the streets but we can’t afford that right now. We need to get the money into an emergency reserve.”

The Town currently budgets almost $350,000 for snow removal and it maintains a $140,000 reserve fund to hire contractors to help clear roads after major snowstorms.

Robertson’s comments come after Town council heard proposals to beef up Okotoks’ snow removal procedures after a winter that has already seen significant amounts of snow.

The Town is looking into a couple possible changes to its existing policy, including identifying priority locations in residential areas that require snow to be cleared.

The Town has also considered the potential to expand funding to allow for all roads in residential areas to be cleared in the event of major snowstorm events, particularly a $200,000 fund for one-time work to clear snow from all residential roads in town.

Okotoks operations manager Dave Robertson said the Town does not yet need to do an all-out cleanup of snow from all roads in Okotoks despite all the snow that has fallen so far this year.

However, Robertson said the Town is giving council potential options to consider expanding snow removal.

“What we’re introducing to council is another level of service that brings a snow removal route into priority residential,” he said.

Under the town’s snow removal policy as it exists, snow is cleared from priority routes, including major roads, bus routes and those with steep grades. Snow is cleared from secondary routes that provide access through neighbourhoods after the priority routes have been cleared. Residential areas are cleared as resources are available and depending on the level of need if roads become impassible or deep ruts form.

The Town has considered increasing snow removal in residential areas.

He said roads in areas that could get extra attention, such as areas prone to snow drifts, where there could be potential issues with drainage as snow melts, along narrow streets in new neighbourhoods and to improve access for emergency vehicles.

Any increases to snow removal would require additional resources.

The Town has estimated it could cost nearly $200,000 to hire contractors to do a one-time removal of snow from all residential roads in Okotoks

“We’re limited with the resources we have, if we were going to consider a one-time clean up of the entire residential area in town, which is not part of our normal operations now, we would be contracting it out over and above our own resources to the tune of $200,000,” he said.

He said the town had come a long way in catching up with snow removal work.

With the forecast for warm weather and the possibility for double digit temperatures this weekend, he said it will go a long way to melting much of the snow that is in town.

The warm weather will also create the potential for runoff and Town personnel will need to shift their focus to keeping drains clear.

“When we get high temperatures like this in the winter time, the ground is frozen so everything is on the surface,” he said.

Coun. Tanya Thorne said she isn’t opposed to increasing snow removal in residential areas, but she said the Town needs to determine what is truly warranted and the Town can find middle ground to have plows remove deep ruts that form in some areas.

She also said there are limits to how much the Town can pay for snow removal.

“As a taxpayer I’m not really sure I want to pay for it,” she said. “It’s a Canadian winter, snow is kind of to be expected. But, we do have to ensure we can still access our streets.”


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