Snow pushes city road costs over 2013 budget

The City of Ottawa was more than $24 million over its snow clearance budget in 2013, with one storm in December costing the city almost $12 million.

Big December storm cost almost $12 million alone, city manager says

Snow dump filling up as Ottawa announces it's $24 million over budget for snow removal 2:35

This winter’s biggest snowstorm cost the City of Ottawa almost $12 million, contributing to a $24 million deficit in its snow clearance budget.

2013 by the numbers

  • 272: Centimetres of snow in Ottawa.
  • 9: Overnight parking bans.
  • 130: Weather event days.
  • $24.4 million: Amount over snow clearance budget.
  • $9.7 million: Snow removal budget (more than doubled from 2012).

The information was revealed Wednesday morning at city hall as the city’s transportation committee heard a staff report on the road maintenance budget during 2013 and early in 2014.

Kevin Wylie, the city manager for traffic management and operational support, said there were 49 centimetres of snow on the ground on Dec. 22 and little has melted since.

That snowfall, lasting from Dec. 21 to 23, cost the city $11.7 million, Wylie told councillors. It cost $7 million just to remove snow.

That was the tip of the iceberg, though, as the city spent $69.9 million on snow clearance in 2013, $24.4 million over budget. The city budgeted for a normal year for snow but didn’t get it, said Marian Simuluk, the city’s treasurer.

City crews were busy clearing slush, puddles, snow and ice off roads on Jan. 6, 2014 before the temperature dropped. (Sherry Aske/CBC)
“It’s never good news when you have to send the treasurer to deliver the news,” she said.

Other departments and reserves will cover the costs, but the snow budget will not rise because that would burden taxpayers, Simuluk added. Simuluk also said that though it’s early, the city’s snow budget looks sound for 2014 with a comfortable cushion.

Parking ban changes possible

Wylie said he has spoken with the city's legal and bylaw departments about changing the parking ban policy during snowfall. 

Coun. David Chernushenko, who represents the Capital Ward, raised the issue when he asked about "non-revenue" overnight car-parking areas during on-street bans. 

Nothing will change this winter, Wylie said, but the bans have to be "more dynamic" and "in line with our operations."

That means the bans would not necessarily be only overnight, Wylie added.

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