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Snowstorms burying Port Moody’s street clearing budget

Deficits are covered by transfers from reserve funds, but those have had to be replenished twice in recent years
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Successive snow events over the past several winters are putting a strain on Port Moody's snow clearing budget.

Snowstorms are getting expensive for the city of Port Moody.

On Tuesday (Jan. 11), council approved its winter road maintenance plan for 2022 that boosts the budget for clearing local roads by six per cent to $293,795. Another $162,020 is being set aside for ploughing the city’s major road network, a 25 per cent increase.

Last year Port Moody spent almost $295,000 on clearing local roads and more than $212,000 for removing snow from major ones.

Although the city’s general manager of engineering and operations, Jeff Moi, said the figures don’t yet include costs for clearing snow from Dec. 26 to 31. Both expenditures were more than originally budgeted.

Moi said while the cost of clearing the major road network is offset by contributions from TransLink, other deficits are covered by transferring money from a reserve fund that’s built up from previous surpluses.

But with recurring snow events since 2016, that fund has taken successive hits and had to be bolstered with additional injections of $83,000 in 2017 and two years ago another $150,000 had to be added. The reserve currently has $150,000 in it.

According to a report presented to council, the city has fewer than 10 staff available for winter road maintenance, but more can be brought in on an emergency basis by shifting resources from water and sewer maintenance, construction or solid waste operations.

But, said the report, “extended duration winter road maintenance operations can be challenging to maintain due to staff availability, fatigue, equipment maintenance requirements and operational requirements related to other infrastructure.”

Port Moody’s fleet of snow clearing equipment that includes five plows, two backhoe loaders and one small tractor that can be used to clear areas used by pedestrians, can also be supplemented by equipment that’s used to maintain the city’s parks and other civic facilities.

During a snow event, Port Moody’s streets are brined and cleared on a priority basis with major arterial routes getting first and ongoing consideration, followed by collector routes, bus routes that aren’t already on arterial roads, and routes that access critical city infrastructure like water reservoirs and pump stations. Local routes and fire lanes get third priority and are only cleared and maintained during regular business hours.

Pedestrian areas follow a similar protocol with top priority being given to those within 800 metres of the city’s two SkyTrain stations, including sidewalks, crosswalks, medians, letdowns and pedestrian overpasses.

Owners of adjacent properties in those areas must also ensure their walks are cleared by 10 a.m. each morning.

Since 2020, Port Moody’s Snow Star volunteer program has also recognized community volunteers who help clear snow for neighbours who need assistance. Nominees receive a letter of thanks from the city and a special toque.