Snow removal proving costly

Duane Hicks

The Town of Fort Frances is keeping up its battle against the mountains of snow that have accumulated here since the holidays—and fast on its way to spending more than it budgeted for.
Operations and Facilities manager Doug Brown said yesterday that the town is now in Week 4 of a snow removal schedule, where it has been running two eight-hour shifts a day, five days a week, to haul away built-up snow from main routes.
This schedule only has been interrupted by snow storms like the one last Friday, when the town had to shift its focus back to plowing the streets.
But it’s costing the town, Brown added, noting the town is spending an extra $1,080 a day just to rent three trucks to help haul away the white stuff.
“Basically, we have run 27 shifts in the past three week, that cost me $29,160 to haul snow,” he explained.
“Then we have a dump at the east end of town that we rent off of George Armstrong [Company],” Brown added. “I have to pay for [them] to push the snow up on [their] land; [they’re] allowing us to use the land.
“That’s cost me about $3,500.”
Adding in the work done so far this week, Brown said the accelerated snow removal program has cost the town close to $35,000 so far—and is expected to top $45,000 by the end of the week.
The 2011 preliminary budget currently has $40,000 earmarked for snow removal vehicle rentals.
By comparison, Brown said the town only spent $12,000 in 2010 to rent extra trucks to haul away snow.
Brown noted the town has not been into the small residential areas yet to remove snow, but have done all the main arteries and “collector routes” (streets where the town plows snow onto from nearby lanes, like First Street East) once—although it may be hard to tell in some spots because Borderland has been hit with so much snow this winter.
“We are planning to work the rest of the week hauling snow and then make a decision Friday,” he remarked.
“We have got to see if the weather’s going to change.
“We plan for a 21-week winter season . . . we’re in Week 11, so it’s half over,” Brown continued. “But if we get milder weather, the snowbanks will go down.
“Usually, you get a big melt in March but I don’t know if we’re going to get that this year,” he said. “March and February can be painful and no one really knows.
“If I could predict the snow, I’d stop hauling it,” he stressed. “I need places to store it. We’re getting pretty jammed.
“How much more are going to do? I don’t know,” Brown admitted. “We’ll make a decision.
“We’ll look at the weather—if we have two weeks without snow, maybe I can do it with our own forces instead of renting vehicles.”
Brown said the town continues to get complaints about high snowbanks, but added they are trying to move the snow in a cost-effective manner.
“We’re getting complaints that on residential, low-volume roads, [motorists] can’t see at the intersections . . . .
“People have to realize we have to take care of the higher-priority roads, the collector streets, the main routes first, before we can get to all of the smaller ones,” he explained.
“When we’re not hauling snow, we’re plowing snow.”
Streets to be worked on for the rest of this week include First Street East from Portage to Mowat Avenue, Mowat Avenue from Second to Third Street East, through the underpass and along Sixth Street, and Fifth Street East near St. Michael’s School.