The City of Fernie's pilot snow plow program is ongoing through the 2020-21 winter season. (Soranne Floarea / The Free Press)

Changes coming to Fernie snow plow efforts

Curb-to-curb plowing will be the most obvious change after the next snowfall in Fernie

Fernie’s ongoing snow removal pilot program is continuing to evolve, with curb-to-curb plowing to take precedence over opening driving lanes first in the next snowfall after the city received feedback on efforts.

The City of Fernie held an online live Q and A on the program last week, with dozens of question asked and answered over an hour-long period.

The ongoing snow removal efforts have been an issue of contention locally, with residents taking to social media to voice concerns with the pilot, leading the city to follow suit in efforts to engage with the community outside of regular channels.

Chief administrative officer with the city, Michael Boronowski said that taking questions from another medium had proven valuable for the city.

“While some of the concerns have been covered, this helped us identify a few specific gaps like a commercial laneway needing clearing, and where people are frustrated with specific parts of the initial pilot like windrows, and the changes in sidewalk clearing.

“We’re rolling all this into our review so we can improve the service.”

Mayor Ange Qualizza said that as a result of ongoing feedback, there were ongoing changes being made.

“Curb-to-curb plowing instead of opening driving lanes first is the most obvious change people will see with the next snowfall, along with how we manage sidewalks and the windrow program. Staff are working to review the feedback and will continue to adjust to improve the service,” she said.

Qualizza has said a number of times now that the previous program of snow removal is not fit for purpose and will not be returned to as it was leaving access to critical infrastructure uncleared.

The previous program had not been reviewed in 20 years, triggering the snow removal pilot which is an ongoing suite of changes to find what works and what does not.

“With each major snowfall the team is adjusting the response, we are committed to improving this service. Going back to the old way would mean going back to sacrificing staffing and funds for maintaining other infrastructure, I want to be clear that we are not trying to save money, but ensure this service is not pulling resources away from needed investment into our water infrastructure for example, as it has been doing.”

Currently, the City of Fernie budgets $700,000 for snow removal each year, but Boronowski said this was usually overshot annually “with reductions in other service areas taking up the slack.”

Qualizza said she had asked city staff to have a report ready for councillors to review by Feb. 8 “so we can hear from staff what resources this service needs to meet the expectations of council and the community.”

A City of Fernie FAQ on snow removal efforts derived from the Q and A and other queries is now available on the municipal website.

READ MORE: City of Fernie to take on snow removal Qs
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