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District boosts snow removal capability

A working foreman will be added to payroll

Council here is going to add nearly $70,000 to its payroll by hiring what’s called a working foreman to boost the District’s snowclearing capability.

The decision, reached by council June 15, follows a comprehensive review of the District’s snowclearing policies and is accompanied by changes in how snowclearing will now take place.

The review of existing priorities revealed the District is unable to meet those current commitments let alone adding any new ones.

“Including sidewalks [from their current Priority 2 position] to Priority 1 would add further strain for the operations team to meet targets set through policy,” indicated a nine-page analysis prepared by District operations manager Chris Lawrence.

What Lawrence and other staffers did propose was adding a working foreman to the payroll “to provide additional supports, supervision and performance standards for snow removal.”

Such a position would cost $95,200 —the equivalent of a property tax increase of 2.24 per. But by eliminating a currently budgeted temporary full-time equipment operator who works during the summer, the District could transfer $26,500 to the working foreman position, reducing the overall new spending to $68,700.

In the summer the working foreman would help maintain road networks.

And because this would be a position within the collective agreement the District has with the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the person could do the work of unionized employees when and if required.

“This will assist the District in becoming more in line with the current policy and with resident expectations,” Lawrence wrote of a staff recommendation to create the working foreman position.

“The current operations team has an operator to road ratio of one operator to 18.2 kilometres of road. With the addition of a working foreman, it would change the ratio to one operator per 15.2 kilometres of road.”

Leading up to the decision to hire another person, council members did offer up suggestions and comments about increasing the current level of service.

One idea was to hire private contractors when needed but their availability might not coincide with the District’s needs, Lawrence’s review stated.

There’d also be the need for constant communication to avoid a duplication of services which would increase the cost to the District.

Using a snow gate — a device which operators can lower to divert snow from piling up at the end of a driveway — was also discussed but discounted.

“Dense residential areas pose a challenge for snow gates due to the driveway frequency. The repeated up and down from the gate impedes productivity and doe not yield favourable results,” Lawrence’s review stated.

The review also examined the costs, budgets and policies of five other northwestern municipalities, concluding that Houston has more commitments with fewer resources.

“None of the participating municipalities have committed to removing windrows from driveways through policy,” indicated Lawrence.

“None of the participating municipalities have a snow board policy in place where the municipality provides driveway clearing for persons with physical limitations preventing them from doing so themselves.”

“The earliest snowfall accumulation trigger is Smithers and Vanderhoof with 75mm (three inches),” Lawrence said.

Council will need to change its current financial plan to reflect the hiring of a working foreman, a measure that will be introduced at a later date.

The hiring of a working foreman is the second addition to the District’s payroll in less than a year to support increased snow and ice removal.

Late last year council approved of the hiring of a permanent, part-time garbage collection operator at a cost of $56,000.

The intent is to free up a fulltime equipment operator from garbage collection Tuesdays through Thursdays to focus on snow removal during the winter and other duties during the summer.

The district has four fulltime equipment operators handling the District’s maintenance and core delivery of services.