The City of Fernie is considering increasing its snow removal budget to allow for increased service on weekends.
Following constant complaints and concerns from residents, mayor and council reviewed the existing snow removal policy and discussed options to enhance it at a Committee of the Whole meeting on January 28. Fernie’s annual snow removal budget for 2012 is $493,000 and does not provide specific guidance for weekend service.
The current level of weekend service for low and moderate rate snowfalls relies on weekend shift workers to maintain priority and secondary routes with a sander/plow truck. For high rate snowfalls, additional staff is called in to assist. On Monday mornings, crews are dispatched to bring roads and sidewalks back up to weekday standards.
Director of Operational Services Dave Cockwell presented council with three options for additional weekend services: dispatch two machines to centre plow the downtown core during moderate snowfall on weekends at an annual cost of $1,000, hire and schedule an employee to work Friday through Sunday from midnight to 8 a.m. at an annual cost of $12,000, or schedule all 13 employees to allow for full plow service on the weekends at an annual cost of $23,500.
“I don’t think that it is too high an expectation to have that increased level of service on the weekend when people are expecting to be able to get around, especially on Main Street,” said Mayor Mary Giuliano. “I personally believe that yes, we do live in this area where we have all these snow events, and so we need to compensate by adding more funding because we do know that we have all this snow.”
She added, “I don’t think it should be us looking at it as an increased level, I think we should just be saying that this is something we need to do.”
While Cockwell’s recommendation was to go with the first, and least expensive option, council decided to refer the possible actions to the City’s budget before making any decisions.