That was the message Yorkton Council received from City Administration at its regular meeting Monday.
“On average, the Public Works Department receives 250 complaints per storm event and 1200 complaints per year related to snow removal, said Trent Mandzuk – Director of Public Works with the City, adding “a 100 hours of employee time are needed just to take phone calls, monitor complaint hotlines and relay complaints/concerns to the Roadways Manager.
“Physically investigating one complaint takes an average of 15 minutes.
“If all 1200 complaints are investigated, 300 employees and half-ton hours are spent visiting the site to determine if further action is required.
“These two actions alone cost $15,000(+) per year.”
“In older areas constructed when development costs were lower and space was more readily available, more spacious developments were common place. In these locations, sidewalks are physically separated from the roadway. This separation, which is often a green space, is known as a boulevard. Boulevards are the municipality’s property. These locations have a distinct advantage in the winter months, as boulevards provide an area for snow storage after it is cleared from adjacent roadways. Similarly, snow plowed from sidewalks can also be pushed onto the boulevard. Yorkton’s current snow removal policy provides sidewalk snow removal in all boulevard areas throughout the City which equates to 70 lineal kilometers,” detailed the report circulated to Council Monday.
Sidewalk snow removal in these areas costs $25,000/year.
The most complaints arise from the City’s current snow removal practices on sidewalks. More specifically, snow removal in locations with sidewalks directly adjacent to the roadway, commonly referred to in engineering standards as “combined curb and sidewalk” or “monolithic curb and sidewalk,” said Mandzuk.
These 71 kilometres of sidewalk has the snow from the street piled on the sidewalks.
“Many homeowner’s clear sidewalks in front of their property immediately after it snows. A few days later snowplows clear roadway snow to the sides of the street, piling snow onto the sidewalk. If snow isn’t piled onto sidewalks and left on the side of the road parking and two-way traffic can become dangerous,” noted the report.
Mandzuk explained, “The only solution that appeases most residents is to physically haul snow to an alternate location. Hauling snow is the single most expensive snow removal service we provide. Total hourly rate of all equipment and manpower can exceed $1,500/hr. The average cost to haul snow is $12 per lineal meter of roadway. To put this into perspective, hauling snow on a street such as Morrison Drive from Mayhew South to Mayhew North would cost $12,000. To provide this service to all areas with combined curb and sidewalk within City limits (71 km) would cost $840,000 per storm or $4.2M per year. The total 2021 snow removal budget is $577,000.”
Hauling snow from these areas for the sole purpose of keeping sidewalks clear is not an affordable level of service. The average cost for current snow removal services is approximately a $100 per household. Offering sidewalk snow removal across the entire City … would increase this amount to $500 per household.
As it stands Yorkton does more than most cities, said Mandzuk.
“We recently reached out to counterparts in the province for information about snow removal in other centers. Most municipalities limit sidewalk snow removal to those directly connected to City owned properties such as parking lots, city facilities and walking trails and paths. Sidewalk snow removal in residential areas is virtually nonexistent across the province and limited only to aforementioned locations,” he explained.
Eliminating this service would provide a savings of $25,000 to the operating budget and consistency across the City with respect to sidewalk snow clearing. It would also eliminate replacing the sidewalk plow in the future which currently has a replacement value of $180,000, continued Mandzuk.
Mandzuk suggested a survey might be warranted to gauge resident satisfaction with snow removal, and a way to explain why services differ in the city.
Councillor Chris Wyatt was the first Councillor to say Yorkton has “some of the best service in the province” and that was no need to change it.
“Leave it as is,” he added.
Mandzuk said it was not so much about surveying with an eye to change but as “a communication tool … It’s more about getting the information out.”
Coun. Randy Goulden said she too believes Yorkton offers “excellent snow removal” but noted this edition of Council has focused on communication with residents so a survey makes sense.
In the end Council voted to leave the snow removal as it is, but to have Administration look further into sharing information on the service with residents.