Manitoba

Winnipeg's entire 2022 snow-clearing budget wiped out in first 3 months

Winnipeg's 2022 snow clearing budget has been eaten up as of April, and now city staff need millions more to pay contractors and prepare for the rest of the year.

City staff ask for $34.2M more to pay contractors, handle the rest of the year

A snowplow clears a sidewalk in downtown Winnipeg during a storm on the morning of April 14. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Winnipeg's entire snow clearing budget for 2022 has been wiped out by winter and spring snow, and now city staff are asking permission to pay the piper.

report to the city finance committee dated Thursday says the city spent $50.4 million on snow and ice clearing so far this year. The original budget for all of 2022 is about $35 million, which means the city is over its entire snow-clearing budget by $15.4 million.

The snow budget is separated into monthly chunks. For January, February and March, the cost went over those monthly budgets by $34.2 million. To pay the contractors for their work over budget and to prepare for the rest of the year, city staff need approval from both the city's finance and public works committees.

"Approval of the recommendation will provide a budget of approximately $18.5 million for the remainder of the year and assumes that snow and ice control activities will be to monthly budget for the remainder of the year," Jason Ruby, the city's manager of finance and administration, wrote in the report.

"As there are nine months remaining in the year, further adjustments may be required at a later date."

Ruby suggests if the city's general revenues can't pay for the extra costs, the rainy day fund can handle it.

Much of March's costs came from dealing with all the snow that fell this winter, the report says.

"Significant costs were incurred for hauling activities (related to the removal of snow banks), to operate snow disposal sites (needing to accommodate the large amounts of snow) as well as costs associated with 'thawing' activities, which include opening ditches and culverts prior to the spring melt and the thawing of frozen catch basins," Ruby wrote.

City staff have yet to tally how much April's snow clearing will cost.

Winnipeg has 10 snow clearing contracts, each maxing out at $5 million, city documents say. Those contracts expired April 15 of this year.

The work some of the contractors did exceeded their limit, Ruby said during Thursday's meeting, so staff need committee approval to pay them the extra amounts.

Coun. Sherri Rollins (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry) asked how good a job contractors have done in the past few months.

"That contractor probably did their level best given the unprecedented snow, but they still did not follow city policy," said Rollins, commenting on how high some snowbanks continue to be in her ward.

"The quality control on the contracts is what I'm asking. We've also had an unprecedented dissatisfaction."

Coun. Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan), who chairs the committee, said the conversation about quality is for another time. Public works will review the city's snow clearing policies later this summer, but for now, they have to deal with the finances, he said.

"The reality is this is the bill we've racked up," Browaty said.

"If there are questions about the quality of the work that was done — the portions done privately versus done with our own forces — those are all very good questions, but that's not the point of this particular exercise today."

The finance committee unanimously approved the extra money.

On Friday, the public works committee will have a similar conversation about paying the contractors "on a timely basis," and possibly expanding the maximum contract cost to $7 million, a report for the committee says.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sam Samson

Journalist

Sam Samson is a senior reporter for CBC News, based in Regina. She's a multimedia journalist who has also worked for CBC in Winnipeg and Sudbury. You can get in touch on Twitter @CBCSamSamson or email samantha.samson@cbc.ca.

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