Posted on Facebook by Coun. Dieter Dudy:
IT SEEMS that snow removal (or lack thereof) is the topic of choice these days. Many seem to think that the City isn’t getting to the task quickly enough or isn’t providing the adequate amount of attention to ensure the streets are safe to navigate.
Some have gone so far to say that they either spend too much on taxes for what we get, while others are of the opinion that they don’t spend enough. I thought it might be an idea to draw some comparisons to help put things in perspective.
Now I know snow. I mean, I really know snow. I grew up in Kitimat where our average annual snowfall was in the order of 12-24 feet. Apparently, they don’t get snow like that anymore… however, last year they still managed to get 335cm.
This is a far cry from the 88.7cm we received in 2017. I remember an overnight snowfall in February 1974 that dumped over 50 inches on us…usually we’d only get amounts of 2-3 feet per event. Still significantly higher than what we see here.
I saw a lot of snow in Prince George too. Nothing, mind you like Kitimat but still significantly more than here. Last year’s accumulation came to 214 cm accompanied by much more cold than we’re used to. Even Nanaimo beat us out in the snow department last year with an annual snowfall of 139.4cm. The only comparable city to us that received less snow was Kelowna. They only managed 42.8cm or half of our total.
The City of Kamloops has an annual snow budget of $1.6 million and we exhausted that with our last snowfall in December 2017. The City of Kelowna with half the snow load has exactly the same budget as we do… and they managed to blow through more than half of it by February 2017.
Prince George has an annual budget of $7 million to do about 2.5 times the work we need to do. Kitimat spends in excess of eight per cent of their overall budget on snow removal. This in a city who has had a dwindling tax base over the years. Unfortunately, I could not find snow budget numbers for Nanaimo….but I wouldn’t imagine it’s too high as heavy snow is more of an anomaly than the rule.
In our case what does the budget pay for? You have wages, equipment costs (both capital and ongoing), fuel, materials (sand, mag etc.) to name a few. Is $1.6 million enough for the amount of snow we get in a given year (recognizing that some years we see next to no snow…and in others somewhat more)?
Can we justify the expense on a year to year basis given our historical weather? Kelowna’s budget is close to ours because the overall expense of snow removal is likely equal to ours… they have more of an area to cover. Having lived in Prince George I can tell you that their much more expensive snow removal did not necessarily give you a better end product.
Let’s assume we wanted to double our budget for snow removal. Are you prepared for a 1.6 per cent increase in taxes to accommodate that level of service? That’s the rate we’re looking at right now on the overall budget… without supplemental requests.
If we added an additional $1.6 million to the budget… we’d see and immediate increase of at least 3.2 per cent on our taxes.
Just increasing the amount of equipment and manpower isn’t going to address the issue of intersections… that regardless of the amount of sanding are still more hazardous than the main arteries. It doesn’t address the fact that there is no point in laying down mag in extreme cold as it simply doesn’t work.
We could haul away windrows… plus ensure drives aren’t blocked… access to sidewalks and bus stops are improved. Yes, those are things that could be done. It, however, all comes at a cost. Priority is given to arteries, then collectors, then side streets etc. if we want that changed or realigned then we’ll have to allow for the increased costs.
I truly believe that we need to find a way that meets the needs of all the people in the community without impacting their tax burden even more than we currently are. I also believe that safety is paramount and that we need to do what we can to address hazardous situations.
Above all I believe we need to keep things in perspective… winter driving is hazardous… period. We need to be aware of this, be patient, and slow down. The city crews are doing a great job with the resources they have at hand. Always open to suggestions though that will make it easier for them to get the job done.
Coun. Dieter Dudy can be contacted at email@example.com.