Road sanding on Fernie's 2nd Avenue. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Snow removal pilot project put to the test

The City of Fernie seeks public feedback on the new, more sustainable program

With increasing amounts of snow beginning to accumulate across the valley, the City of Fernie continues to put their snow removal pilot project to the test.

“Snow and ice management is one of the most complex service areas delivered by the City, and the challenges are compounded by a decades-old approach that set unsustainable service expectations,” said Wynne Cairns, communications coordinator for the City of Fernie.

“Creating public understanding of those complexities and service expectations within the context of resource constraints is a huge challenge.”

Initiated last February, the new program outlines five priority levels for snow removal, replacing the previously outdated system.

“The City conducted a public open house in February of 2020, and received lots of valuable feedback, including the desire to prioritize emergency services, safety, active transportation, and clarifying roles and responsibilities,” said Cairns.

“Because there were insufficient snow events in the remainder of the 2019/2020 snow season, the pilot was extended through 2020/2021 and the City will engage with the public on their experiences and concerns throughout the season.”

Under the new snow clearing model, access to critical municipal infrastructure is a day-one priority, as is clearing emergency and essential service routes. The pilot also prioritizes active and multi-modal transportation options, thereby increasing the amount of sidewalks cleared on day one as opposed to predominantly roads.

According to Cairns, over the upcoming season the city hopes to gather subsequent community feedback to refine their prioritization framework and clarify service delivery targets.

The City of Fernie also reminded residents that snow clearing service start times depend on the amount of snow forecasted by 4 p.m. the day before, with clearing commencing at 4:00 a.m. when more than five centimetres of snow is expected, and beginning at 7:00 a.m. otherwise.

According to Cairns, despite the added challenges brought upon by recruiting and certifying crews with a lack of ICBC resources as a result of COVID-19, the city’s snow removal fleet is now trained and fully operational.

For more information on the snow removal pilot program, visit Fernie.ca. To offer feedback on the pilot, visit letstalk.fernie.ca.

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