Despite a heavy snowfall in late 2012, the City of Dawson Creek only spent about 80 per cent of its snowplowing budget for that year, according to its director of infrastructure and sustainability Kevin Henderson.
“We should be in pretty good shape,” said Henderson.
According to information presented by council, over 2,900 hours were spent last year to plow and remove snow from the streets. Of this, 60 per cent of this snowplowing occurred in December. However, this increased amount did not lead to a shortfall in the budget.
“Even though we had a record amount of snowfall in December, we had nothing in January, February, March of 2012,” he said.
However, this was balanced by a lighter snowfall within the first few months of 2012.
Henderson said that in total, the City spent about $470,000 on snowfall in 2012, out of a total of about $577,000 that City crews had available to them.
To do this work, the City relies on its own employees to do most of the work. Henderson said that he roughly estimated that 90 per cent of the work was done by City employees.
At times during the heavy snowfall in late 2012, these employees would work 20-hour shifts in order to remove the snow.
“We have to usually maintain the equipment, too,” he said. “That’s why we only do 20 hours, not 24, because we have to service the blades.”
Two city councillors – Duncan Malkinson and Shaely Wilbur – have praised City staff for their work, noting that some of their constituents have told them that they were pleased by the city’s snow-cleaning efforts.
These employees remove snow on a basis of priority set out by city council. The first priorities are streets on hills or major access roads, including 8th Street north of the roundabout and 17th Street north of the Alaska Highway. The second priorities are the roads near the Dawson Creek hospital and others. The third highest priorities are bus routes and streets associated with bus routes. The fourth highest priorities are 10th Street between 107th Avenue and 13th Street, and the following downtown, major routes and schools following last.
A map of these individual routes is available on the city’s website.
The Alaska Highway and 8th Street just south of the roundabout are maintained by Caribou Road Services, and are not subject to municipal roadblocks. These highways are considered a provincial responsibility.
In some cases, or about 10 per cent of the time, this work is set out to contractors with graders within the city.
“It’s only when we have extreme snowfall, which we had some earlier in the season when we would hire some graders to come in and assist,” he said.
However, higher wages in the oil field can sometimes attract contractors with the necessary machinery to work there rather than for the city when these private contractors are required.
“I wouldn’t say it’s impossible, but it’s very difficult to find someone,” said Henderson. “We’ve had a hard time getting more than two … it’s hard to find that equipment because everybody who has equipment is out working in the oil patch.”
Currently, these people are not employed, as Dawson Creek has not received a major snowfall recently.
Henderson said that currently city staff members are working to clean up streets.
“We need to go and widen streets, push the snowbanks back, clear sight lines and intersections,” he added. “We’ve got ice on gutter lines, there’s lots of work.”
This could change as well. Currently, city council has prioritized a master transportation plan to guide car and pedestrian traffic in the city, amongst other issues. Snow removal will be a part of this plan when it is formulated sometime in 2013.