Update—Jan. 4 1:14 p.m.
The City of Kelowna says snow clearing will take place in the downtown core overnight tonight and residents and businesses in the area are advised vehicles should be moved off main roads to allow for effective clearing.
“Crews have been working around the clock to clear priority one roads, which include high-traffic roadways and commuter routes,” said Stephen Bryans, roadway operations supervisor. “Typically, lower elevation areas like the downtown core will melt fairly quickly, but with cool temperatures and a record snowfall, that’s not the case this year.”
Other town centres and business areas, including South Pandosy and Rutland, will also be cleared during overnight shifts, weather permitting.
“We understand that some areas remain an issue and we are working to clear those roads as soon as possible,” said Bryans. “However, if another snowfall happens before the completion of priority two or three roads, we will need to return to priority one.”
The city owns 21 snow removal trucks and three graders along with five sidewalk plows, and clears snow and ice (excluding Highways 33 and 97) based on roadway priority status.
• Priority 1 includes high-traffic roads such as Gordon Drive.
• Priority 2 includes collector roads such as Richter Street, bus routes, school zones, town centers and emergency vehicle stations.
• Priority 3 includes local roads in neighbourhoods.
Residents and businesses are responsible for clearing snow from sidewalks and driveways adjacent to their property.
The city is encouraging residents to help their neighbours by lending a hand with shoveling snow. Those who help can be nominated as a Snow Buster and are entered in a monthly draw to win Kelowna Rockets tickets.
The bills to clear snow off streets in Kelowna and West Kelowna are piling up.
Kelowna officials said Wednesday the city expects to cost of snow clearing in 2017—including both the winter months at the start and at end of the year—will top $2 million. That’s well above the $1.7 million the city budgets each year for snow removal.
City public works manager Darryl Astofooroff said the heavy snow falls in both November and then again last week pushed the cost over budget.
Related: Kelowna sets daily snowfall record
“Normally we go through about 70 per cent of the (annual) budget in the first part of the year (January to March),” he said.
But the unusually early, heavy snow fall this winter changed that.
Because the city works on a calendar year budget cycle for snow clearing, as of Monday (Jan. 1), a new snow-clearing budget of $1.7 million is now in place for 2018.
The amount to cover the budget overage will be taken from a reserve fund that uses unspent snow-clearing money from previous years.
Despite the city’s efforts, however, there have been complaints by the public about recent snow clearing in Kelowna.
But Astofooroff said given the one-day record snowfall last week, city crews are doing the best they can. He said a lot of clearing also takes place at night when the public may not see plows out on the roads.
Astofooroff said it would cost taxpayers too much to be geared up for such an extreme snow event every year as they do not occurs every year, so the city has to gauge what it the most likely scenario and be ready for that. In addition to city crews, contracted crews are also used.
He added the city has a service request line at its kelowna.ca website and the pubic can phone in and report streets that have not been plowed.
“They can also tell us what we are doing wrong and what we’re doing right,” he said.
Meanwhile, over in West Kelowna, where the snow fall was just as dramatic, the financial impact on taxpayers has not been as severe because the city has a fixed contract with a company, AEL, to clear snow off city roads.
The contract is based on a set number of “snow events” each year said city spokeswoman Kirsten Jones. Unlike Kelowna, West Kelowna’s snow clearing is based on the winter season—November to March.
Jones said so far there has been one more snow event than anticipated and that has driven up the cost a little for the contractor.
In both Kelowna and West Kelowna, officials say they feel they have got the upper hand on clearing the most recent snow despite the record dump the area received last week. Still, they caution residential streets are among the lowest priorities when it comes to immediate plowing during and after a snow storm. Residents are also asked not to park on the street during a heavy snow storm because they can impede plows.
Last week Kelowna implemented its new snow event rules for some higher residential neighbourhoods where cars needed to be off the road to allow plows to get through.
Astofooroff said the procedure worked well, adding area residents seemed to respond as soon as the signs in their neighbourhoods went up.
“As soon as the signs went up, people got the idea,” he said.
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