The need for speed

A city employee clears snow outside of City Hall on March 5. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

The City of Prince Albert can look forward to spending an additional $650,000 if it wants to speed up snow clearing service in the city.

That’s according to a new report from the city’s Public Works Department, which was asked to provide information on the capital needed to increase snow removal speed.

The report calls for an estimated $250,000 to pay for an additional crew of four employees, along with another $400,000 to purchase two graders. The grader expense will be even higher if the equipment is purchased brand new.

With current resources, city crews can clear all priority one streets within 24 hours, except for rare snowfall events. Most priority two routes can be cleared within 48 hours with current resources.

“It is noteworthy that snow clearing could be faster sometimes than others, depending on the availability of hired equipment (and) graders,” the report reads. “In order to expedite the snow clearing operations, additional equipment and manpower will be needed.”

The report also calls for more snow removal signs (the city currently purchases 50 every year) as well as more employees to place them in residential areas following a storm.

Another Public Works Department response looked at the speed of snow removal in the city’s downtown core, specifically on Central Avenue. Several business owners and a few city councillors expressed concern in early March that the district wasn’t being cleared quickly enough. However, the report says that clearing the downtown area requires all of the city’s snow removal resources. Crews would not be able to focus on downtown without neglecting the rest of the city, largely because snow is removed immediately after plowing on Central Avenue. In other areas of the city it is piled on the side of the road.

“The Department is unable to provide faster snow removal under these circumstances unless additional manpower and equipment are obtained, or businesses on Central Ave. agree among themselves to accept the fact of grading the street and piling up the snow on one side of the street (until removal),” the report reads.

Both reports were brought to city council at the request of Ward 7 Coun. Dennis Nowoselsky. At past meetings, Nowoselsky has called on the city to provide more resources for snow removal, especially in the downtown.

When reached on Tuesday, Nowoselsky said he hadn’t had time to read the Public Works report, but added that he still thinks the city needs to do better.

“You can’t have days were people can’t go downtown and they’re getting stuck all over,” he said.

Nowoselsky added that he’s pleased with how snow removal crews have performed over the past month, and complimented the department on their quick response time. He said the city needs to reevaluate its priorities and put more money into the snow removal program.

“You can say (the snow fall) was an anomaly (in an) abnormal year, but we live in Saskatchewan, Canada,” he said. “You have to be prepared for that and we’re not good enough.”

Nowoselsky also wants the city to explore the possibility of paying more for quicker service from contractors. The city already has contracts with several snow removal companies, but they start clearing city streets only after they’ve fulfilled their other contracts with private companies.