Snow and ice control update given to Calgary city council

The city hopes to service all of Calgary's snowy residential streets by the end of the month, according to an update given to council today.

Mandatory snow tire debate dropped after mayor says it falls under provincial jurisdiction

Calgary city council got an update on the residential snow clearing program, which has had a few challenges this year. The city had hoped the job would be done by the end of this week, but it's not clear if that will actually happen. (CBC)

The city hopes to service all of Calgary's snowy residential streets by the end of the month, according to an update given to council today.

Alleys that provide the only vehicle access in the area will also be addressed in the next phase of the residential roads snow action plan.

Roads director Ryan Jestin says once the month-long plan for residential streets is completed — with the help from private contractors — another assessment will be done on every street to see if more work is needed given recent snowfall and chinooks.

The city estimates it will spend $12 million on roads in January alone since being hit with a record amount of snowfall over the past two months. 

The entire budget for 2014 is $34 million.​

Jestin said it is premature to say the city won't have enough in its snow and ice control budget to complete the year.

The topic of mandatory snow tires also came up during the council meeting, but was shot down quickly.

"I'm not sure why we're talking about it," said Mayor Naheed Nenshi. "It really is an issue for the provincial government."

Report expected in July

It seemed like every councillor had questions or an issue with how the residential snow clearing program was going when it came up at city council. 

Council debated the program for roughly two hours Monday because heavier than average snowfall this winter has led to some of the worst driving conditions in years on many residential streets.​

A report on Calgary's snow and ice control program is not expected to come back to council until July.

The report will look at how Calgary's efforts to clear its streets compares with other winter cities and whether more contractors should be on stand-by.​

Snow clearing: a plow clears the centre of a residential street and pushes the snow to the side.

Snow removal: snow blowers and trucks are deployed. The snow is then removed from the street, put in a truck and sent to snow dump.

Flat blading: driver flattens blade on plow to create flat surface to drive on.

Maintenance manager Bill Biensch says the city's seven-day snow plan works if there are seven days between snowfalls, but that has not been the kind of winter that Calgary has had this year.

He says service requests, such as calls put into 311, do help identify roads that need more work. 

Coun. Jim Stevenson has lived in his northeast community for 22 years and says he has never had a plow go down his street.

Jestin says the city never promised snow would be removed from every residential street but each road would get some treatment.

Some communities have seen snow removed from the streets while others have been visited by a plow for snow clearing or flat blading, but some communities have seen nothing yet.

Communication breakdown

Jestin says their focus has been doing the work and not so much on communication, which has been challenging.

Coun. Brian Pincott said an example of the communication breakdown included some communities listed as being done when no work was completed. July's report is expected to look at a better communication plan.​

Jestin said the number of districts were cut from nine down to five, which seems to have hampered communication with council and residents.

He said it also took three weeks to get enough equipment from the private sector for snow clearing.

Coun. Shane Keating also wants the city to consider having more private contractors on stand-by to help the city with snow clearing and other jobs, such as pothole repair and street cleaning in the spring and parks maintenance in the summer.

“It doesn't mean we have vast amounts of money invested in equipment on the city basis or we have more individuals or employees on the city payroll. What it allows for is a much more flexible system where you can expand or contract as needed,” he said.

Coun. Richard Pootmans also wondered if the city needs a more robust snow budget or bigger reserve fund to handle extreme situations like this winter.