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Wednesday, 14 November 2012 15:06

City’s director of engineering happy with snow removal crew

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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Swift Current residents got their first real taste of winter last weekend when a storm covered the entire southern Saskatchewan with a blanket of snow that measured from 15 to 30 centimetres in different areas.

City of Swift Current Director of Engineering Mac Forster said the Environment Canada warnings of heavy snowfall gave the snow-clearing crew ample time to be prepared.
“Our crew was ready, they were willing to work the long weekend and they put in some pretty productive hours,” he mentioned. “I felt they did a great job and we got a real leg up on this recent snowfall.”
The storm system started to move in over southwest Saskatchewan during Thursday evening, Nov. 8.
There was a steady snow fall during the entire Friday and also for most of Saturday in Swift Current.
“Typically, we don’t get this type of snowfall until later in the season,” he noted. “At this time of the year we’re usually dealing with slippery roadways and so sanding is the predominant activity we undertake, but fortunately our equipment was fully serviced and ready to go.”
According to Forster, the City deployed its equipment during the snowfall Nov. 9, something they would not normally do.
“We usually like to minimize operations during low visibility,” he said. “We did put out some blading equipment on Friday, particularly along the service roads near the Trans-Canada highway and some other areas in the city.”
On Saturday morning the entire crew was out with sanding and snow removal equipment and continued to work during the day.
“Then that same crew returned at midnight and they began the downtown clearing operation and they did that for two consecutive midnight shifts,” he said. “So they did get a good jump on the cleanup.”
Close to 40 per cent of the City’s planned snow removal was already done by the end of Tuesday. Forster said the City cleans about 85 kilometres of streets, which represents roughly 65 per cent of the roadways within the community.
“We’ll have a lot of it completed by this weekend,” he added.
While the weather forecast was indicating a warming trend towards the weekend, Forster said they will continue to clean away as much snow as possible.
“If we leave material on the street, it tends to ice right on it, so there’s certainly a benefit to continue removing this snow off the major streets,” he explained.
The City’s focus is on clearing main and arterial roads, which means local residential streets and lanes will receive little attention.
“The only time we would move into those areas is if there’s really large amounts of snow that hit our community,” he said. “We were finding that in the local streets the snow is packing down pretty well, so we’re focusing on the higher volume streets right now.”
The milder winter conditions at the start of the year means the City’s 2012 snow removal budget is still solid. During the past two years, the City’s budget for snow removal operations was close to $500,000 and a similar amount is available for 2012. So far only about one third of this year’s budget has been spent.
“Barring any significant additional snow falls before the end of the year I think we’ll come in well under budget,” he said.
While the City clears sidewalks in front of its own properties, a bylaw requires property owners to clear sidewalks.
Forster said the City does not have the resources to do sidewalk clearing throughout the entire city and residents are generally doing their part to keep sidewalks clean in front of their properties.
“We only always remind them though that snow is to be placed from driveways and sidewalks behind the walk or on the yard,” he added. “Every once in a while, we may see somebody either shoveling or blowing snow onto the street and under the bylaw that is not permitted.”
The downtown commercial core is the only area where snow from sidewalks can be placed in the street because there is nowhere else to put it.
“So, we usually delay the downtown cleanup until a lot of the business owners had an opportunity to push that snow into the gutter and then we remove it with the street snow,” he said.
The bylaw contains penalties for property owners who do not clear their sidewalks, but Forster is not aware of any fines for such infractions. The City’s approach is to rather encourage an individual to abide with the bylaw.
“There are a few areas where we get the odd complaint and we usually follow up with just contacting the property owner and requesting that they tend to the matter,” he said.
(See photos from the snow storm on Page 4)

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