The heavy snowfall in the last few days is taking a toll on Kelowna’s snow clearing budget.
As of Thursday, the city had already plowed through half of its annual $1.6 million snow removal budget—after that’s after just one month. The budget covers the the calendar year, January to December.
But the city says there’s no fear the money will run out to pay for snow clearing, even if it goes over budget this year.
“We spend what we have to, regardless,” said Stephen Bryans, roadways operations supervisor for the city. He said in years when there is money left in the budget, it goes into a reserve fund to help pay for more expensive years.
City snow removal crews, with the aid of an additional nine pieces of rented equipment, have been kept busy since the end of last week, clearing what Environment Canada said was more than 20 centimetres of snow that fell on the Kelowna over the weekend. Bryans said in some of the higher areas that number could be closer to 40 centimetres. And since then, another 10 to 15 centimetres of snow has come down.
“This is definitely one of the bigger storms we’ve dealt with in recent years,” he said.
Kelowna’s snow removal is done on a priority basis, with priority one routes being busy arterial roads and main routes in and out of neighbourhoods. Priority two routes are collector roads, school zones, town centres, bus routes and emergency vehicle stations, as well as roads with grades of 10 per cent or more. Priority three roads are cult-de-sacs and and local roads. Priority four are lanes providing access to properties.
Highway 97—Harvey Avenue through Kelowna—is maintained by the province through a contractor.
Bryans said if snow starts falling heavily after crews have completed clearing priority one routes and have moved on to priority two roads, crews head back to make sure the priority ones are kept clear. And that means some local roads and cul-de-sacs may have to wait to be cleared.
He said the city aims to have priority ones cleared within eight hours of the end of a storm (when snow has stopped falling), priority twos within 12 hours of the end of a storm and priority threes within 48 hours of the end of a storm.
But the delay in clearing some residential streets is not sitting well with at least one person who contacted the Capital News.
On Wednesday, city resident Lisa Broughton said her cul-de-sac on Aspen Court hadn’t been plowed since the weekend and she and others living on her street have struggled to get their cars in and out.
“I haven’t been able to use my driveway for four days,” said Broughton. “There’s just no movement there.”
She said she’s been keeping her driveway clear but the road has not been cleared.
“The city is making excuses about how much snow there is. I don’t want excuses, I just want my road plowed. This is why we pay our taxes.”
This week, for the first time, the city implemented its snow route system that prohibits vehicles from being parked on streets in four high-elevation neighbourhoods. Residents in Wilden, the Ponds, Magic Estates and Dilworth Mountain could face a $50 fine if their vehicles are found parked on the street and impede snow removal.
The city says the move is required to let snowplows get through, and turn around, on thin, windy and hilly roads, as well as a cul-de-sacs. The city instituted the snow routes in 2015.
According to the Kelowna website, the four snow routes areas do not get any special consideration when snow is cleared.
Meanwhile, in West Kelowna, that city is also calling on its residents not to park on the street when the snowplows are out.
West Kelowna says it plans to put up temporary “no parking” signs in some areas and because signs will be out, it could ticket drivers who leave their vehicles on the street during heavy snowfalls. But it doe snot want to do that.
Spokeswoman Kirsten Jones said the city would rather educate the driving public about the need to keep routes clear so they can be plowed for the benefit of everyone.
Residents and businesses operators throughout the Central Okanagan are also reminded to keep the sidewalks outside their homes and businesses clear of snow.