District of Houston council chambers and municipal office. (Ann Marie Hak photo)

Snow removal and ice control questions from Houston council

District of Houston down by two staff in public works

In October 2017, District of Houston council resolved to approve the request from the School District 54 board to extend the snow removal route to include the end of Butler Avenue along Riverview Drive to Avalon Way and out to the turn off at Equity Mine Road as part of the priority one snow removal policy.

At the request of Houston council, on Dec. 5, 2017 the snow removal policy was brought back into the District of Houston council meeting indicating the snow removal and ice control policy with operational guidelines for District of Houston staff, and the 1982 traffic control bylaw that states snow removal requirements of property owners in Houston.

Snow removal and ice control is performed based on priority, and under the District of Houston snow removal and ice control policy bylaw there are three priority tiers.

The first priority includes clearing of snow after an accumulation of two inches of snow cleared within six to 10 hours for priority one roads which including roads on the west and east side of Buck Creek.

After an accumulation of four inches of snow, priority two roads will be cleared within 24 to 48 hours. These roads include all other District of Houston roads and Lake District Maintenance roads as well as parking lots at the Cottonwood Manor, the District of Houston Municipal Office and Houston Volunteer Fire Department Hall, Public Works Yard, the Houston Community Hall, the Houston Leisure Facility, Claude Parish Memorial arena, the walking bridge between Cottonwood Manor and Fourteenth Street, the pathway from Cottonwood Manor to the Houston Mall, Ninth street parking at Hwy. 16, Tenth Street parking lot, sidewalks adjacent to municipal property and fire hydrants.

Clearing of snow under priority three roads begins after an accumulation of nine inches of snow, which covers driveways and parking lots cleared within 72 to 120 hours. Priority three roads include windrows left at residential and commercial driveways from previous plowing operations, snow boards, other sidewalks, private property including the Seniors’ Activity Centre and specific requests regarding health and safety, as well as the removal of compacted snow and ice and shoulder widening.

Under the snow removal and ice control policy bylaw, the District of Houston can hire private contractors to remove snow and ice to ensure public safety.

General guidelines of the snow removal and ice control policy include that District of Houston staff will not use chemical ice control on roads other than that affected by salt mixed with the road sand, salt will not be used to de-ice sidewalks, nitrogen fertilizer or other non-chlorine chemicals may be used to de-ice sidewalks, staff on call out rates will only be used to clear priority one and two roads, and at the discretion of the manager of engineering and operations, snowboards may be done with the priority one or two schedule to facilitate better use of equipment.

“Is there a timeline for property owners for clearing sidewalks?” asked counsellor Jonathan Van Barneveld.

“The property owners have until 10 a.m. the day after the snow falls on the sidewalk to clear it except for Sunday,” said Gerald Pinchbeck, Corporate Service Officer for the District of Houston.

“Does this apply to all property owners, residential or commercial?” asked counsellor Van Barneveld.

“Yes, that is correct,” said Pinchbeck.

Questions were asked about the inconsistency of snow and ice clearing around the district, to which Pinchbeck replied, “There are a couple of aggravating factors that have affected our operations. The first is that we are down by two staff. We have our mechanic off on holidays, who services our vehicles and do any of the major changeovers. We are also down an operator position. We did advertise for casual operators to come in, that posting just closed last Friday [Dec. 1, 2017.] In addition, we had a large amount of snow fall at the beginning of this year, which complicated snow removal.”

The casual operator position has not been filled yet as of Dec. 14, 2017 but interviews are underway.

“You are saying that we are short-handed and that we are able to higher contractors, so let’s get it done,” said counsellor Tom Stringfellow.

“I don’t have that information why contractors weren’t contacted,” said Pinchbeck. “I can pass that on to the Chief Administrative Officer when he returns.”

Counsellor Van Barneveld asked if it is possible to cost it out to move all sidewalks under priority three to priority two.

“So that there is not some multi-level priority for sidewalks,” said counsellor Van Barneveld. “I would like to have an opinion from staff next meeting as to how that can be done.”

Counsellor Van Barneveld also requested that the Houston District & Chamber of Commerce parking lot and Steel Head Park parking lot be added to the list of parking lots in priority two.

Counsellor Van Barneveld also asked why Lund Road is listed under priority two, after the route on Equity Road was just switched to priority one for snow removal in October 2017 because it is a bus route.

Pinchbeck said that the reason why Lund Road is not under priority one, though it is a bus route, is because the District of Houston has an agreement with Lake District Maintenance that covers the snow removal of this road.

It was also requested by counsellor Van Barneveld that the maps get updated incidating the priority routes to include the priorty three sections as well as a larger view of the roads within the District that are not indicated in the current map.

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