Snow piled up then bills piled up in the City of Trail this year.
So much snow during the first three months that, in fact, the city is projecting a $272,000 shortfall in its snow removal budget when the cold weather returns in late fall.
Trail council reviewed a summary of winter operations this week, and noted expenses to the end of March exceeded $574,900 or $30,500 above the originally approved budget ($544,000).
“It just points out that we had a real anomaly in Trail this year,” says Trail Mayor Mike Martin. “This all came about as a result of the excessive snowfall we had in the January to February time frame.”
Snow was removed from the downtown core seven times during the first two months of the year, which is well out of the norm – especially when five of the heavy dumps were in early February.
“Massive snow removal had to take place,” said Martin. “And that’s not just in the downtown, of course, we also had to do all the other streets.”
Historically, the snow removal budget is expended evenly over the course of the year. Typically, 50 per cent is expended during the first quarter of the year (January to March) and 50 per cent is used from early winter until December 31.
With the usual scenario already fallen to the wayside, public works is estimating that 2017 snow removal costs will exceed $874,000. This represents an additional $272,000 (50 per cent) over the original budgeted amount.
“What council has decided, recognizing we’ve got this potential shortfall at the end of the year, is we do have some opportunities for funding from other avenues,” said Martin.
“Our back up plan is we can take funds from prior years’ surpluses and cover off any shortfall. But in addition to that, we are getting some early indication there may be some other funding sources becoming available as part of our capital works plan,” he added. “So we are not taking further action at this point with the understanding that we are aware of the issue and we do have contingency plans via a couple of avenues.”
In a memo to council, Public Works Director Chris McIsaac summarized snow removal costs over four years. In the first quarter of 2014, Trail council’s $493,000 winter operations used about 44 per cent of the allotment, leaving a $316,000 surplus. Then in 2015 and 2016, the city budgeted an average $495,000, and both years the account remained well above board, with surpluses of $284,000 and $170,000 respectively.
Crews clearing following heavy snowfall Feb. 9
Another municipality experiencing an unexpected shortfall is the Village of Warfield.
Corporate Officer Jackie Patridge says at the end of the 2016 fiscal year, the village’s snow removal expenditure was $20,000 under budget.
Ongoing cold temperatures were behind precipitation amassing as snow this winter, not just in the valley but at mid elevations as well.
“Snow removal is interesting in that it spans two fiscal years, with November and December in 2016 and January and February in 2017,” said Patridge. “The 2017 snow removal expenditure is currently $15,000 higher than expected at this point of the year, but we still have to see what happens in November and December of 2017.”
The Village of Fruitvale actually have $15,000 to spare from it’s 2016 operating budget of $119,750.
“However, given the snow season we had this January to March, we increased our budget by 16% ($20,000),” says Chief Administrative Officer Lila Cresswell. “And that will allow us a bit of a buffer in case the November-December season is heavier this upcoming winter.”
We are seeing a shift in the cost centres from the plowing into the hauling and salt/sanding, Cresswell added.
“The volume of snow received in the snow events means it must be hauled away fairly quickly to avoid the high windrows. That and the extra amount of salting/sanding due to freeze thaw cycles.”
On top of the hill in Rossland, winter operations were quite normal.
“For the 2016 budget year we used 85 per cent of our annual budget of budget or approx. $392,000,” says Manager of Operations Darrin Albo.
For the 2017 budget we have used 58 per cent of our annual budget or approx. $261,000, Albo added.
“I feel we are close to been on budget for 2017 provided that November and December are normal snow accumulations.”