Ottawa blows through snow budget for 7th straight year

For the seventh year in a row, the City of Ottawa overspent its budget for clearing snow and ice from the area's streets and sidewalks, ending 2018 with a $7.2-million snow maintenance deficit.

City records $7.2 million deficit for winter maintenance in 2018

A sidewalk plow clears in front of Parliament Hill during the January cold snap in Ottawa. (Marc-André Cossette/CBC)

For the seventh year in a row, the City of Ottawa overspent its budget for clearing snow and ice from the area's streets and sidewalks, plowing more than $75 million into winter maintenance for 2018.

It allotted $68.4 million for the work, but as the city closes the books on last year, figures show the city's roads department spent $7.2 million more than that.

Snow and freezing rain in April and November stretched out the season and meant extra salt and grit used on roads and sidewalks, and more work for the winter fleet.

Budget documents show the city's winter operations crews dealt with rain, freezing rain or snow 98 times over the 2018 calendar year, which spans two different winters. Crews also had to handle 89 freeze/thaw cycles and 91 hours of freezing rain.

The number of those types of weather events is higher than the 20-year average, according to the city.

For 2019, the city has increased the winter maintenance budget by $2.4 million to a total of $70.8 million, which would not cover the bare minimum of snow-and-ice related services if 2019 turns out to be as bad — or worse — than 2018.

During budget deliberations in early March, public works manager Kevin Wylie noted the winter that's on the way out has been especially severe.

Asked by councillors why the city doesn't try to better budget to meet reality, Wylie pointed out the city has steadily bumped up the allotment for winter maintenance in recent years so that it's now in line with the costs of an average winter, if he looks back over the past 10 years. 

Spending aside, staff also intend to review the city's standards for how well and often it clears snow and ice by the winter of 2022-23, because they have not been revisited since amalgamation.


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