Snowfall plows through municipal winter budgets

A sunny, snowy day in Port Moody. photo supplied George Balkovec

It may not be normal, but it is becoming the norm.

Last December’s snowfall was an example of the type of increasingly frequent extreme weather event faced by cities, according to Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart.

“The conditions were not normal,” he said. “We’re going to continue to see more and more frequent conditions that aren’t normal.”


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Coquitlam received more than 1,000 complaints related to snow clearing as well as another 150 complaints about sidewalk clearing, stated Coquitlam’s director of public works Brad Lofgren in an email to the Dispatch. Because adjacent property owners are responsible for sidewalk clearing, the city’s bylaw department handles sidewalk complaints.

“Every municipality in Metro Vancouver had real trouble. We have more hills than most,” Stewart noted. “We had every piece of equipment out. I thought we did a good job given the conditions.”

Coquitlam has 21 pieces of snow clearing equipment and approximately 2,400 tons of salt in stock. The city’s public works department is looking to increase the city’s salt storage capacity and to add another tandem-axle snow plow, Lofgren added.

Extreme weather will require cities to change the way they invest in planning, equipment and maintenance, Stewart said.

The city budgeted approximately $1.3 million for snow clearing in 2022.

“At this point, we do not have all of our costs in, but it is certainly safe to say that snow clearing for 2022 has exceeded our budget,” Lofgren stated. He added that the city also dealt with “significant winter weather” in the early part of the year.

The city has more than 1,110 kilometres of laneway, many of which are plowed several times during a snowfall, according to Lofgren.

Port Moody

If you have any suggestions about how Port Moody’s snow response plan could be improved, Mayor Meghan Lahti is keen to hear them.

“I plan on holding a mayor’s town hall meeting in early 2023 that will provide the opportunity for the community to explore changes to the plan and associated budget,” she stated.

Port Moody has a winter road maintenance budget of $455,989. However, the city doesn’t have details on how much was spent yet. When budgeting for snow clearing or for flooding, the city tends to base the budget on average costs over the previous three years.

Port Moody has a fleet of five plows and one small tractor for pedestrian areas as well as storage capacity for 400 tons of salt, according to a statement from the city.

The city could not determine an exact number of complaints, according to Port Moody’s general manager of engineering and operations Jeff Moi.

“We do of course receive complaints, but it’s difficult to determine an exact number as many people who reach out to us are simply asking a question about our response priorities or requesting snow removal in a specific area,” Moi stated.

The city responds to those complaints by investigating as resources allow to determine “if there is a safety issue that would necessitate deviating from our standard priority sequence,” Moi wrote.

“However, it’s important for people to remember that we are a small city with limited resources,” he added, noting the city has a set snow clearing order that prioritizes major arterial routes, as well as routes that connect with highways and school roads.

Port Coquitlam

Port Coquitlam likely exceeded the municipality’s $431,800 snow clearing budget, according to the city’s director of public works and engineering Josh Frederick.

The city has 14 pieces of snow clearing equipment, including five dump trucks and two backhoes, as well as approximately 900 tons of salt.

Port Coquitlam got 61 complaints. That total doesn’t include social media complaints, although staff also responded to queries and complaints made online.

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