By RENÉE FRANCOEUR
Cleaning up after Mother Nature doesn’t come cheap.
While the recent dumps of snow in a short period of time have been causing headaches for Central Albertans trying to get around, it’s also becoming a drain on some community budgets in the region.
Sylvan Lake town council officially approved a $150,000 over-expenditure for 2013’s snow removal funds last week during a special meeting as crews struggled to stay on top of drifting snow piles.
Sylvan Lake, like Red Deer and many other surrounding areas, saw 22 cm of snow fall on Dec. 2 during a bliuzzard and just over 62 cm for all of November, well above the monthly average of 16.9 cm.
The year’s total snow removal budget was $360,000, said Joanne Gaudet, communications officer with Sylvan Lake.
“We have committed to doing every road and alley in town.
“That $150,000 did get us three extra private service bulldozers, an additional Cat bulldozer and we had eight additional trucks for hauling snow and two additional loaders for clearing alleys and driveways,” Gaudet said.
Likewise in Rocky Mountain House, outside help has been hired to come in, stomping big holes in the town’s pockets.
The 2013 budget allocated about $5,000 for hired-out snow removal work in additional to the town’s own supply of one grader, one snowblower and four dump trucks, said Kris Johnson, director of engineering and operations at the town.
“That number has been blown out of the water this year.
“We really hadn’t used any in January, February or March of 2013; it’s all recent.
“We’re estimating we’ve spent around six times that amount, next to around $30,000 on contracted work, largely thanks to these last two weeks,” Johnson said.
The rest of Rocky’s snow removal budget consists of about $117,000 for crews’ salaries and $40,000 for salt and sand.
Johnson said he doesn’t anticipate going over for the salt and sand allotment but the salaries chunk could spill over by a small amount due to the volume of overtime being clocked.
Blackfalds has also plowed through its $16,000 earmarked for snow removal in 2013.
“With just the most recent three storms, we’ve spent close to $40,000 in contracted services as well as $25,000 worth of our labour time and that doesn’t include gas or vehicle maintenance,” said Preston Weran, Blackfalds’ director of infrastructure and property services.
The funds in the town’s reserve should be enough to cover the excess but the total costs are still being tallied, Weran added.
Things in Stettler were not as bad as in some areas when it came to stockpiling snow, said Melissa Robbins, Stettler’s director of operational services.
“We will likely be over by about 20 per cent on our machine rentals — which is budgeted at $17,000 a year — but our overall budget will not be significantly impacted compared to other areas. It’s pretty minor numbers. With the last storm, we cleared the town in seven days whereas typically it’s in a 15-day window.”
Stettler’s snow removal budget is $111,500 (including not only staff wages and vehicle rentals but also equipment repairs and snow fences).
As of Nov. 30, Stettler had reached 85 per cent of that budget and Robbins said she expects they are now teetering near the limit.
Ponoka had already reached 50 per cent of its 2013 snow removal budget of $95,000 when the snow started again this fall, according to Betty Quinlan, the town’s director of corporate services.
It has a reserve of around $80,000 for extra snow removal funds.
“It’s hard to say where we’re at now; we’re still figuring that out but I’m sure we’re right up there, pushing the envelope by now,” Quinlan said.
Lacombe County, which doesn’t have a specific budget for snow removal, believes its numbers should all balance out by the end of the month, largely due to the fact that the county owns all its own equipment, said Phil Lodermeier, manager of operations.
Red Deer County’s budget for this year is just over $2 million and Mayor Jim Wood said it looks like they will be within $14,000 of that figure, give or take, based on what is expected weather-wise for the rest of the month.
Meanwhile, the City of Red Deer has spent $3.88 million from Jan. 1 to Dec. 8 on snow removal procedures and materials. The snow and ice control budget for the year had been set at $3.4 million.
The costs from clearing last week’s major snowfall are still being calculated, said Michael Cox, senior communications consultant with the city.