The City of Fernie has voted on extend the pilot project and community engagement process(formally called the Service Area Prioritization Framework) for snow removal into the 2020-2021 winter season during a Special Meeting of Council on Sep. 17.
The snow removal program being continued is the same as the one that was first initiated in February 2020, which outlines five levels of prioritization for snow removal. The previous program had been labelled as “unsustainable”.
According to Zabrina Pendon, the City of Fernie director of operational services, the number of data points gathered during the original pilot (five) in the previous winter season was not enough for an adequate assessment.
Additionally, an anticipated public survey, which was meant to be carried out between April and August 2020, was postponed due to the impact of the pandemic.
From data gathered earlier this year between Feb. 18 and Mar. 14, Pendon reported that operator engagement had improved after each plow, the pilot had seen consistent completion of services within the service response time, and there was an improvement in clearing access to critical water and sewerage infrastructure.
At the same time Pendon reported challenges in securing personnel to work overtime shifts, and clearing windrows and parking lanes was more difficult during warm and cold temperature fluctuations due to ice.
From the pilot so far, Pendon reported that lanes in the business areas of town should be included in plowing services, service at leased facilities will need to continue with a more refined scope, a more formalized notification system is required and a more precise delivery timeline can be achieved.
City staff also noted challenges in training operators due to planned retirements and a backlog of ICBC testing for younger drivers.
Pendon recommended that councillors vote to extend the project by directing staff to prepare operations for snow clearing services under the pilot program, and report back to the council in Q1 of 2021 with more data and full feedback from the public, targeted stakeholders and operational results, to create a proposed draft of a full policy on snow removal.
Councillor discussion included queries on the number of staff leaving the city and the challenges of training new staff, differences in the level of service between the business areas of the city, and a brief discussion on what to do about by-law enforcement to ensure no parked cars block snow plows.
The motion to extend the pilot was unanimous.
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