page contents Vote Dylan Bressey, candidate for Grande Prairie City Council. Election 2017. page contents

Snow Removal

I’ve received many emails, phone calls, and comments about snow removal. Additionally, I pay taxes and my family uses our roads so it is a very relevant topic to me. I thought I’d write a post to answer the most frequent questions I have received. All mistakes and opinions belong to me and me alone, not to the rest of Council or to City staff.


What is happening right now?

We had very unusual weather. Not only did we get record amounts of snow, but it was followed up by very cold weather. Extremely cold temperatures make clearing the snow very difficult as plow trucks cannot remove it- all clearing needs to be done by graders. This has put our resources to the test.

So what equipment does the City have to clear snow? Here is what is typically deployed:

  • 18 Front End Loaders with Angle Blades
  • 11 Graders
  • 1 Backhoe
  • 6 Sand/Plow Trucks
  • 1 Snow Blower
  • 6 Tandem Snow Haul Trucks
  • 3 End Dump Snow Haul Trucks
  • 3 Sidewalk/Trail and Bus Stop Plows

On priority 1 and 2 routes, crews have been working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our people are working very hard to clear snow as quickly as possible.


Does this current work mean my taxes are going up?

No. As far as Council is aware, our snow removal efforts have not gone over budget as of right now. If they do go over budget, there is a Winter Stabilization Reserve- a fund setup to pay for any cost overages due to unusual amounts of snow. As of December 31, this reserve had $2,455,038 in it. If snow removal work goes over budget, Council would presumably order money from this reserve be used to pay for it.


What is Council’s role in snow removal?

Council’s job is to set all City policies relating to snow removal, including target service levels. Council approves an annual budget designed by administration to meet these policies. It is also Council’s job to be aware of what is happening. We are responsible for holding administration to account if service levels are not met or if money is not used responsibly.

Council does not deal with the operational aspects of snow removal. There are legislative and good governance reasons that Council is removed from this. Council does not touch such decisions as what equipment to use, what routes to deploy it on, and how to dispatch equipment to problem areas.


Who should I contact if I have a question or concern?

For most issues, you are likely to receive a quicker response by contacting staff. Council members work through a chain of communication which begins with the City Manager. To ask a question or voice a concern, we need to go through multiple people. You can often get a hold of relevant staff more directly than Council members can.

If you have a question about how snow is being removed, concern about a specific area of the City, or request for help it is best to contact City staff. You can do this through See-Click-Fix by clicking here. Alternatively, you can go through the Citizen Contact Centre at citizencontactcentre@cityofgp.com or 780-538-0300.

Council is a good contact if you have concerns about snow removal policies, object to the amount of resources deployed, or have contacted City staff and have not received a satisfactory response. You can find Council's contact info by clicking here.


Are our roads safe?

I believe they are.

I asked administration to provide Council with the number of collisions reported this week and during the weeks previous. These will take some time to collect- many collisions do not get reported immediately.

We will likely see an uptake in accidents reported. However, many accidents will be at lower speeds. I am not convinced that we will see an uptake in injury accidents. But I look forward to seeing the numbers and letting them inform our conversation.


Do we need to allocate more resources towards snow removal?

Many feel snow removal efforts need an increase. However, doing so requires additional resources- it means either scaling back other services or increasing taxes. Whether or not we expend more resources is a conversation worth having.

I may change my thinking significantly after reviewing accident statistics. However, below is where I am currently at.

There are two separate issues under discussion:

  • Are the service levels set out in our policies adequate? I currently stand by what I said throughout the campaign (click here to read it). Right now, I do not support increasing our service levels. The biggest overall concern about our City that I have heard from residents is taxes. I want us to focus on delivering and communicating better value to taxpayers. Once we have accomplished this, then I will be more open to talking about putting more resources towards snow removal. But when that conversation happens, we need to keep this old adage in mind: “you can have it quick, good, or cheap. Now pick two.”
  • Do we have the resources needed to meet service levels? There are two ways to approach our capacity for work 1) we can always have enough equipment and people available to quickly respond to the worst weather imaginable, or 2) we can have enough equipment and people available to quickly respond to worse than average weather and task them to do there best when it gets even worse. Personally, I favour the second approach. I don’t believe that we should pay to have excess people and equipment ready to go all winter every winter to deal with once-every-few-years events. However, some disagree with me and I am very open to further discussion.

What are our current policies and service levels?

You can find the City’s current snow and ice policies by clicking here. You can see a map of priority roads by clicking here. Some highlights:

  • Highways through town are owned by the province- the City is not allowed to contribute to snow removal on them
  • Priority 1 roads are arterial roads and primary access roads for Emergency Services. They get plowed when we get 7.5 cm of accumulated snow. The target standard is a clear driving lanes within 24 hours of the end of a snowfall event.
  • Priority 2 roads are collector roads. They get plowed when we get 10 cm of accumulated snow. The target standard is 5 cm or less of compacted snow within 72 hours of the end of a snowfall event
  • Priority 3 roads are non-Priority 1 or 2 roads in commercial and industrial zones. They get plowed when we get 10 cm of accumulated snow. The standard for these is to have them plowed within 5 days of the end of a snowfall event.
  • Residential roads that are not Priority Roads get plowed when we get 10 cm of accumulated snow. The standard for them is to be plowed within 2 weeks of the end of a snowfall event.
  • Sidewalks adjacent to City owned property get cleared of snow during Residential Snow Plowing operations
  • Pathways within utility lots and parks are not plowed unless they are links between sidewalks and pathways under City responsibility

That's my take on snow removal. I certainly welcome additional questions. And as always, I have an open mind- I also welcome any thoughts or feedback you might have.

Thanks for reading!

-Dylan