Winnipeg's snow clearing efforts going under review

A city committee has ordered a review of Winnipeg's snow clearing with a report due in June.
A city committee has ordered a review of Winnipeg's snow clearing with a report due in June. 2:02
A city committee has ordered a review of Winnipeg's snow clearing with a report due in June.
Winnipeg has a very good snow clearing service although last year was a challenge, said Brad Sacher, the city's director of public works. (CBC)

The public works committee called for the review after a debate Tuesday morning, during which the head of the city's biggest union said there hasn't been a comprehensive review in 17 years.

Mike Davidson, president of CUPE 500, which represents about 5,000 city workers, also suggested more of that work should be brought “back in-house,” meaning it should be done by city employees not private contractors.

"We would question, given the amount of money that was a cost overrun with this service, why no analysis for 17 years? This is a core service and it is a big ticket item," said Davidson.

At the very least, Davidson contended the city should do a cost-analysis on private-versus-public clearing efforts.

That prompted the city's director of public works, Brad Sacher, to quickly point out the city has inspectors monitoring private snow clearing contractors, who do get fined on occasion if the job is not done properly.

There aren't private snow clearing contractors "wandering around doing whatever they want," he said.

Winnipeg has a very good snow clearing service although last year was a challenge, Sacher said, noting other cities look at Winnipeg for ways to improve their own efforts.

Despite that reputation, Sacher said he can foresee challenges that might arise were the city to reconfigure its street clearing program — especially if those plans included a significant upgrade to the city's fleet of machines.

"To make a change where we are going to do all of the work at the level of service we are trying to provide right now, we need hundreds and hundreds of pieces of equipment,” said Sacher. “It's a very big decision."

Cameron Glass, owner of the commercial snow removal company CG Diggs, questioned what the city would do with new street clearing vehicles during the summer.

"And then what does the city do with it for the rest of the year?" said Glass. "Is it going to sit in a yard?"

Glass plowed city streets for a private contractor before starting his company. He said perhaps it's less important who is plowing than what they are plowing with.

"More graders: I've said this in the past," said Glass. "It plows the street down better, where they are using a plow truck. It's fast; it removes the majority of the snow quick but it doesn't get rid of the ruts."

The public-versus-private cost analysis needs council approval, which is expected to take until June at the earliest.


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