Snow removal a hot topic at city council

City workers pile snow outside of City Hall on Monday. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Snow removal was a hot topic throughout Prince Albert since the start of the week, and that extended to Monday’s city council meeting.

Ward 7 Coun. Dennis Nowoselsky was the most vocal councillor to bring up the issue, especially when it came to clearing snow out of the city’s downtown area. Nowoselsky said he wants the city to start discussing what resources, capital and labour would be required to speed up the process. The goal is to make changes when next year’s city budget comes up for discussion in the fall.

“People are getting stuck all over downtown,” Nowoselsky said during Monday’s meeting. “I know it was a major blizzard, but we’ve got to do better.”

When asked where he would find the money, Nowoselsky alluded to removing funds from the police budget and earmarking them for snow removal.

Ward 8 Coun.Ted Zurakowski said he’d also fielded a number of calls from concerned citizens wondering why the snow wasn’t being removed quicker. He sympathized with those concerns, but emphasized residents needed to understand the process, especially during what he called an “exceptional” weather event.

“I think it’s important for the public to understand how few of our public works employees are actually in the snow removal or plowing crew,” he said. “A few years it was nine. We might be up to 11 now, and certainly we’re not asking them to work daily and through the nights. It’s a good concept, but there’s only so many (employees) and they can’t work 36 or 48 hours straight, and the snow keeps coming.”

According to the city’s roadways manager, 11 city employees and two contractors were out clearing snow on Monday. Although crews have been working overtime to remove snow, and the city has put in calls for service from a number of private contractors, the city’s public works department says they are not on pace to go over budget.

Zurakowski added that the barrier to getting quicker snow removal isn’t money. It’s the availability of equipment and labourers.

After the meeting, Mayor Greg Dionne asked residents to be patient as city crews worked their way through the city. He added that more private contractors would be augmenting city crews as they finished their other contracts.

“They’re moving as fast as they can, and as their equipment becomes available, we’ll be putting it on the street,” he explained.

To help speed up the process, the city followed a “push and pile” strategy on Monday, where they worked to open up streets, and piled snow wherever it was convenient. To help speed up efforts to haul the snow away, the city has reopened their old snow dump on 15th Street East. That property was previously put up for sale, and although the city has received offers on it, Dionne said no development would commence before snow melted in the spring.

@kerr_jas •