Prairie Post (East Edition)

Novem­ber snow­storm a ma­jor hit on City’s snow clear­ing bud­get

- By Matthew Lieben­berg mlieben­berg@prairiepos­ Canada News · Natural Disasters · Disasters · Swift Current · Saskatchewan · Regina · Swift Current · MasTec · Don McMorris

The large snow­storm in Novem­ber blew a big hole in the City of Swift Cur­rent’s snow clear­ing bud­get.

The snow­storm hit the city and south­west Saskatchew­an dur­ing the first week­end of Novem­ber and caused sig­nif­i­cant dis­rup­tions to ser­vices.

Swift Cur­rent was hit by around 50 cen­time­tres of snow and roads be­came dif­fi­cult to nav­i­gate, re­sult­ing in the can­cel­la­tion of classes in city and ru­ral schools as well as the post­pone­ment of the Nov. 9 mu­nic­i­pal and school board elec­tions in Swift Cur­rent.

City Gen­eral Man­ager of In­fra­struc­ture and Oper­a­tions Mitch Minken pro­vided de­tails about the cost of the cleanup dur­ing a reg­u­lar coun­cil meet­ing via video con­fer­ence, Feb. 8.

He noted the snow clear­ing op­er­a­tion was a ma­jor ef­fort that con­tin­ued un­til close to Christ­mas, and it in­volved City staff and equip­ment as well as ex­ter­nal con­trac­tors.

“Typ­i­cally, we try to do as much as we can with in­ter­nal re­sources, be­cause it's al­ways the most cost ef­fec­tive, but there are times when they're not ad­e­quate to deal with ma­jor snow events such as the one that we get in Novem­ber,” he said. “So we have some ad­di­tional funds to pro­vide for con­tracted labour and equip­ment.”

The City’s to­tal cost for snow re­moval in a typ­i­cal year is around $450,000 for the en­tire pe­riod, which cov­ers snow clear­ing from Jan­uary to March and then again from Oc­to­ber to De­cem­ber.

“As a re­sult of this 2020 bliz­zard or snow event, both our in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal costs ex­ceeded our bud­get for that event, as you would ex­pect,” he said.

The City’s 2020 snow re­moval bud­get in­cluded $85,500 for ex­ter­nal con­tracted re­sources, but it was over bud­get by about $80,000 as a re­sult of the Novem­ber snow­storm.

The City spent a to­tal of $496,305 on snow and ice con­trol in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber, of which $165,500 was spent on ex­ter­nal, con­tracted labour. The ad­di­tional cost for the ex­ter­nal con­trac­tors was cov­ered through the re­al­lo­ca­tion of un­spent funds from the op­er­at­ing bud­get.

“Ob­vi­ously the in­ter­nal labour and equip­ment was uti­lized for the ma­jor­ity of the work,” he said. “It was greater than a typ­i­cal year, but be­cause it was all within our bud­gets there was no ma­jor bud­get im­pli­ca­tion. It's just a re­al­lo­ca­tion of where peo­ple worked.”

Mayor Al Bri­dal ex­pressed ap­pre­ci­a­tion towards one of the ex­ter­nal con­trac­tors. MasTec Canada, an en­ergy ser­vices con­trac­tor in Swift Cur­rent, made a grader avail­able for snow clear­ing at no cost.

“They did not send an in­voice to the City,” he said. “They just did it as a cor­po­rate do­na­tion. I just want to make sure ev­ery­body is aware of that. … They’ve seen us in trou­ble, the whole com­mu­nity in trou­ble, and they stepped up and put their grader on our roads with some di­rec­tion from Mr. Minken to clean the roads that they were re­quired to. So just a big thank you.”

Minken added that MasTec pro­vided a grader for 25 to 30 hours free of charge, which rep­re­sented a sig­nif­i­cant cost to the com­pany.

“We es­ti­mate that grader was prob­a­bly run­ning at about $260 an hour,” he said. “So a very worth­while help for us.”

Coun­cil mem­bers ap­pre­ci­ate low COVID-19 num­bers:

The num­ber of ac­tive COVID-19 cases in south­west Saskatchew­an is cur­rently the low­est in the prov­ince and coun­cil mem­bers ex­pressed ap­pre­ci­a­tion towards res­i­dents for their ef­forts to fol­low pub­lic health guide­lines.

There were only nine ac­tive cases in the south­west on the day of the coun­cil meet­ing and the num­ber dropped even lower since then.

“I just want to com­mend and give a sin­cere thank you to all of our cit­i­zens who have just been do­ing a won­der­ful job of keep­ing our COVID num­bers low,” Coun­cil­lor Tom Chris­tiansen said. “I'm check­ing that num­ber ev­ery day for our lo­cal cen­tres, as ev­ery­one is, and we're con­sis­tently lead­ing the prov­ince in the fewest cases since the hol­i­day sea­son, and I just want to en­cour­age ev­ery­one to keep it up and stay vig­i­lant and help keep ev­ery­one safe.”

Mayor Al Bri­dal agreed with this re­mark and ex­pressed grat­i­tude towards res­i­dents for their ef­forts to limit the spread of the virus.

“All our cit­i­zens have been mask­ing up and clean­ing their hands, and our rates are way down,” he said. “And I know peo­ple say oh, you're sparsely pop­u­lated. Well, there are lots of other places in the prov­ince that are as sparsely pop­u­lated as us or even sparser and their num­bers are way higher. So I think it's ku­dos to all of our cit­i­zens for do­ing what we've been asked.”

He also ex­pressed a hope that the south­west re­gion will not be ne­glected dur­ing the vac­ci­na­tion roll­out.

“Ev­ery week there's a may­ors’ call with one of the min­is­ters from the prov­ince that's re­spon­si­ble for us, Don McMor­ris,” he said. “And I con­tin­u­ally ask when are we get­ting vac­ci­na­tions in Swift Cur­rent, and we're told we're do­ing such a good job that we're kind of on the end of the list for vac­ci­na­tions.”

Coun­cil­lor raises idea of change to garbage pickup sched­ule:

Coun­cil­lor John Wall raised the idea of changes to the garbage pickup sched­ule as a means to achieve greater op­er­a­tional ef­fi­cien­cies in the City oper­a­tions.

“I be­lieve our City should con­tin­u­ally be look­ing for ef­fi­cien­cies and I hope that's what we're do­ing,” he said. “I'm not sure if that is hap­pen­ing right now.”

He re­ferred to the City of Regina as an ex­am­ple of an al­ter­na­tive way to do garbage pickup in a more ef­fi­cient man­ner.

“I've been talk­ing to some­body in Regina City Hall and they pick up their garbage ev­ery sec­ond week, and that starts in Novem­ber and it goes to April,” he said. “So I think there would be a con­sid­er­able amount of sav­ings and ef­fi­ciency and it also would pro­mote re­cy­cling, and I hope that we can carry and dis­cuss this fur­ther at other coun­cil meet­ings.”

Mayor sup­ported this sug­ges­tion to look at al­ter­na­tive op­tions, and he pro­posed that coun­cil mem­bers con­sider this idea dur­ing their up­com­ing plan­ning meet­ings.

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