City councillors put forward motion to update snow and ice control policy

·3 min read

Two councillors have brought forward a motion for the City of Calgary to update its snow and ice control policies.

Councillors Jeff Davison and Ward Sutherland are calling for changes in the city's response to "significant winter storm events" after a snowstorm buried Calgary's roads and sidewalks in up to 40 centimetres of snow on Dec. 21 and 22.

A second snowfall dusted the city in about five more centimetres on Dec. 26, before the city could complete its seven-day snow removal plan, which lengthened the snow-clearing process, officials told CBC News.

But there have been thousands of complaints about road and sidewalk conditions since, Davison and Ward said, and snow has continued to clog roadways.

"We're now three weeks past a major snow event, and we're still trying to deal with some of these roads," Davison said.

"This is really about looking at the policy to say, 'Could we have done this better?'"

Time for an update

The city's snow and ice control policy was approved in 2009 and last updated in 2011.

It is intended to minimize the impact of winter storms on transit, emergency services, communities and businesses, while reducing hazards for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians, the policy says.

However, Davison suggested that after almost a decade, it might be time for some revisions.

For example, the motion says that city administrations should have the ability to declare a snow emergency in specific situations, without requiring council's go ahead.

Under the current policy, if council isn't sitting when a request for services is needed, it can create unnecessary delays, Davison said.

Monty Kruger/CBC
Monty Kruger/CBC

"We should just have criteria that says, 'If and when X happens, Y can be deployed.' It's as simple as that," he said.

"What I'm proposing is that perhaps we look at providing new criteria under which administration can just make that decision, within their best professional advice, and get it done quicker … rather than relying on council to sometimes provide additional budgets to get out when there is significant snowfall."

Residential streets 'need more attention'

Davison said he also wants to look at the budget to improve service, and especially away from busier streets.

The two December snow events cost about $4.2 million for the city to manage, officials said.

The base budget for snow and ice control for 2020 was $40.5 million — plus a one-time instalment of $9 million in additional funding to support enhanced sidewalk and pathway clearing, for a total of $49.5 million.

However, the motion states that the city's winter maintenance budget is among the lowest per lane kilometre when compared with larger cities in Canada.

And in comparison, the annual winter operations budget for the City of Edmonton is over $60 million, the city said.

"I think residential streets do need more attention," Davison said.

"I think about my own ward that has a lot of topographical challenges in terms of very steep residential roads in certain areas … we really need to get on those."

The motion requests that city administrators develop detailed criteria for additional resources to clear residential streets when winter storms warrant enhanced services.

"This would look at, going forward, 'Do we need to revisit how we address the snow and ice clearing reserves? Does council need to be more aware of the amount of dollars that should be in that reserve?'" Davison said.

If the priorities and finance committee approves the idea next week, city council will discuss the motion later this month.