Coquitlam socks away $1 million to deal with winter weather

The city was blanketed in snow last winter. photo supplied Carol Price

After last winter’s heavy snow put a $1 million dent in Coquitlam’s extreme weather budget, city council opted to squirrel away some extra cash before Jack Frost makes his return.

Council voted unanimously Monday to put aside an extra $1 million to avoid what’s become a pattern of going over budget.

Over the past five years, annual snow clearing expenses have exceeded the city’s budget by an average of $700,000.


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“With most of our budget processes it’s “stick-to-budget,” except with snow clearing,” Stewart said.

The extra cash should give city workers a little more predictability, said Mayor Richard Stewart.

Given that climate change has made extreme weather both more frequent and more difficult to forecast, Stewart said Coquitlam has so far been fortunate.

“If you’ll speak to people in communities across the province from Abbotsford and Cache Creek and anyone that’s still in Lytton, we’ve been very lucky,” he said.

Following Monday’s vote, Coquitlam has a $2 million reserve. However, Coun. Brent Asmundson questioned whether that was enough.

Asmundson noted the increasing frequency and severity of wildfires and atmospheric rivers in recent years.

“Should we not be raising that amount?” he asked.

That topic may be on the table during budget discussions later this year, according to city staff. In the meantime, Coquitlam is able to draw on other reserve funds if necessary, staff stated.

On the road

Four of the city’s older trucks are now out of commission due to frame and underbody corrosion as well as mechanical issues, according to city staff.

New trucks are slated to be ready to hit the roads by next winter, according to a city staff report.

Coquitlam plows are equipped with carbide steel plow blades.

“Despite the cost of the blades being double that of regular steel blades, the lifetime of the blades is approximately three times longer than the regular steel blades,” according to the report.

Aside from erasing some paint, the blades don’t damage city streets, according to Coquitlam director of public works Brad Lofgren.

“In the past few years we’ve found that we need to refresh pavement markings on an annual basis anyway so we don’t see any other negative effects of using these carbide blades,” he said.

Keeping Coquitlam streets clear during a snowfall is especially challenging due to what a staff report referred to as the city’s “severe topography.”

In 2022, the city had to delay organics collection a few times due to heavy snowfall.

Last winter’s cold temperatures also led to swaths of compressed snow and ice, leading city crews to switch to a mix of salt and sand “because salt alone becomes ineffective in low temperatures,” the report stated.

The city tends to try to keep steep hills clear down to the pavement while leaving some snow on flat patches, Lofgren explained.

“Flat areas we will leave with some compact snow and they’re sanded so they’re perfectly passable,” Lofgren said.

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