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

City receives update on snow removal program

Councillors gave direction on policy ahead of winter

City of Fernie councillors have received a report on the city’s snow and ice management policy, and given direction on various policies and services provided by the city over winter.

The city has been trialling a pilot snow removal program since February 2020, applying the revamped snow and ice removal policies for half of the 19-20 winter season, and the entirety of the 20-21 winter season.

The program was subject to ongoing changes through the last season, with feedback prompting the city to re-instate curb-to-curb plowing instead of opening driving lanes first and returning to finish the job later, among other changes.

During a report to council on October 25, councillors gave direction to staff to commit to various changes to the program and change other aspects.

Here are the directions given to staff and on staff advice:

  • Under direction and on advice from staff, the full-plow tipping point for snow removal remains at a 5cm + forecast.
  • For West Fernie, the city will extend contractor services for a period up to three years.
  • On seniors driveway windrows, the city sought to reign in service creep expectations, with council directing staff to change the policy timeline to accommodate a larger time-frame for windrow removal for senior citizens registered with the city to receive assistance. According to city staff, residents had come to expect windrows to be removed as snow plowing machinery went past, and this was slowing down the entire program. Instead, staff requested a change to allow for up to 48 hours before windrows could be removed, but upon questioning clarified that this does not mean senior residents would need to wait two days – simply that staff needed to be able to continue with their plowing duties before returning, and that could take longer.
  • On the plow method, staff had recommended that the city re-commit to opening priority driving lanes before returning to complete plowing of a street, but councillors disagreed and voted to keep curb-to-curb plowing to limit the number of passes plowing machinery made in city streets. According to reports residents were unhappy with having to clear windrows from their driveways multiple times a day.
  • For weekday and weekend service levels, councillors directed staff to provide a similar level of snow removal services on weekends, weekdays and statutory holidays.
  • For the sidewalk clearing policies, councillors directed staff to continue with the pilot sidewalk clearing program.
  • In other services, the status quo (as per the pilot program) was retained, covering snow removal policy of lane-ways, downtown public parking, park access, leased facilities, the main loop recreation trail and commuter pathway.
  • Finally, for downtown sidewalks, city policy is that owners and operators downtown be permitted to place snow in the roadway against the curb ahead of a heavy plow in the early morning between 4 and 4:30am. If a centre plow has begun, sidewalk snow can be place in the windrow before removal between 6 and 6:30am, and if the windrow has already been removed, sidewalk snow must be hauled away at the business owners expense.

The full City of Fernie report is available on the city website, and a recording of council discussion can be found on the city’s Facebook page.

READ MORE: City leans in to snow pilot program, commits to keep going with trial

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