More than half a million in budget for snow removal, plowing and sanding

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer
memara@fortfrances.com

Believe it or not, Mother Nature costs the town more than half a million dollars in the annual budget for snow removal, snow plowing, salting and sanding and maintaining the sidewalks.

Travis Rob, Operations and Facilities manager, said there are two cost categories for the Operations and Facilities budget, one is for snow plowing and the other is for snow removal.

“We do budget for plowing the roads and we have another set of budget lines allocated for actually physically removing the snowbank,” Rob said.

The budget for 2022 is still in the works, but Rob said he had budgeted $154,130 for snow plowing. Snow removal in the 2021 budget was $293,984 and that includes $30,000 in truck rentals.

Rob said the Operations and Facilities division budgets for truck rentals because even though the town has two trucks, renting additional ones expedites the snow removal process.

“It does make things much faster if you have a couple of extra trucks,” Rob explained.

The sanding and salting budget was $83,980 in 2021. Rob stressed that plowing, sanding and maintaining sidewalks in the winter costs an additional $88,604 budgeted in 2021.

Therefore this totals $620,698 that the town spends during the winter. Rob said a big portion of the budget goes to labour.

“I’ve got a crew of guys and public works that does snow removal, plowing and salting and sanding,” he said. “If they’re not doing that job, they’re doing something else. A lot of times if I’m low on say snow removal or snow plowing I may be higher on some other cost category where we did more of some other type of work. It’s a bit of a balancing act.”

Rob said he cannot expect whether the Operations and Facilities division will exceed the budget because it depends on the winter every year. He said the budget was exceeded in 2019 because, like this winter, the town got a lot of snow that needed removal.

“I do my best to monitor the weather to the best of my abilities but unfortunately Mother Nature is as unpredictable as ever,” Rob said. “We tried to budget based on historically what we get for an average winter. Some winters are worse, some winters are better. Last winter for example was extremely easy and had very little snow. It wasn’t very cold. It was the best case scenario for a winter.”

As far as this winter, Rob said plowing is going as good as plowing ever goes.

“We are forecasting for some snow to come,” Rob said. “We’ve been working the last week and starting last night with our night shifts and some additional truck resources to try and get some snow banks hauled away from the higher volume areas like the Kings Highway, Scott Street and Second Street.”

Rob said they are making room for vehicular access by working around the school zone in the middle of the day to avoid peak times.

“We did have a couple of pieces of equipment break down. Everything is now back up and running, touch wood,” Rob chuckled. “We got two shifts for staff in the wintertime.”