Lack of snow good for city finances

The City of Estevan has had minimal expenses for snow removal in the past couple of months.

Norm Mack, the city’s manager of roads and drainage, said the weather has co-operated in the last couple months, with only a few minor systems bringing light snow to the community.

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“We have been doing some ice rut clearing, and blowing some snow on main arteries, just to let the sun burn them off when it comes out with some warm temperatures, and we also did some work around school zones, removing some snow and just to get some of that ice off.”

When city crews were out clearing streets recently, it served as a good opportunity to make sure the equipment was operating. And outside of the cost of fuel, Mack said there wasn’t a cost to the taxpayers, because it was done by city crews during regular work hours.

“The guys are getting paid, so we might as well do something,” said Mack.

He wanted the snow removed from the main arteries due to the above-zero temperatures in the forecast for early January.

The equipment is operating well, and the city is ready in case a big snowstorm does strike.

“This has probably been one of the easiest winters that we’ve had for quite some time,” said Mack. “Usually we can reach Christmas with not a whole lot of snow, but I’ve seen in the past where January has come and we’ve gotten nailed (by the snow).

“But we’re prepared for the worst, because I think we’re still going to get a major snow event, at least one this year, and when it comes, I’m not sure, but we have a lot of winter left.”

In the event of a big snow event, the city has access to contractors who can help out with removing the snow.

The biggest challenge to face the city in recent weeks has been ice, with a couple of storm systems that brought freezing rain to the city, along with some accumulations of hoar and rime frost.

“Some of that is still under the snow, and it’s tough getting rid of that unless you get really warm temperatures,” said Mack.

According to figures released by the City of Estevan last fall, the city spent $263,400 on snow removal efforts in the first few months of 2018, including sand and salt. There was some money spent on snow removal in October 2018, when some snow blanketed the city, but Mack is confident the city will be under-budget for expenses related to snow removal for last year.

“We didn’t spend hardly anything in November and December,” said Mack.

The city is trying something new for ice removal this year, as one of their one-tonne trucks can now apply liquid calcium chloride. One of the components is molasses that helps bring the freezing point down.

“When there’s ice storms, or really bad ice, we’ll be bringing that liquid salt out,” said Mack.

The liquid calcium chloride is much more powerful, and it reacts much stronger.

“For example, if we got ice on intersections, or a freezing rain storm, we’ll be using that to get some hard to remove ice,” said Mack.

He’s not sure if it will prove to be more expensive than the salt the city has traditionally use, but it has been used by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure, and the city wanted to try it.

Mack pointed out that any salt or calcium chloride would be corrosive, so the city tries to keep that in mind when applying it, and limit usage so that it doesn’t damage vehicles or roads.

“We really try to limit what we use. We have to be on that edge of yes, we have enough down, and we don’t need any more because we don’t need corrosion over everything.”

Public works employees have also been stockpiling clay for water breaks, checking equipment and performing other regular duties this winter, such as clearing pathways and sidewalks the city is responsible for.

Water breaks have not been a problem so far this winter.

“We’ve been spending quite a bit of time at the landfill, making sure we’re good and covered there, and meeting regulations,” said Mack.

The Christmas decorations that have been in place in downtown Estevan and other arterial roads since mid-November are expected to be coming down at the end of this week.

 

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