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2013-12-17 at 11:41

Winter weather slams city budget

By Jamie Smith,
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All of the white stuff has the city's books seeing red.

The winter roads budget for the city is $700,000 over budget so far and looks to be about $1.3 million by the end of the year.

Spring storms and early winter blasts have kept workers busy on the roads this year. Roads division manager Brad Adams said every time all of the plows come out, it costs up to $20,000 a night to get the roads and sidewalks safe.

If residential streets need to be plowed, that number climbs to about $25,000. The money is needed for labour, equipment and material.

"It all depends on the weather events out there," he said.

The city does have a $2.2 million winter control reserve fund, which Adams said hasn't been needed yet.

But they'll have a better idea of where the budget ended up around February. The city's standards have plows on arterial and collector roads when hit at least five centimetres of snow. All streets are plowed once it gets to about ten centimetres.

"We hold to that standard," Adams said.

City crews were out Monday to sand and plow some streets with hills to make them safer. But the heavy plowing was done starting at around 2 a.m.

That's a typical response, Adams said.

Plowing late at night and into the early morning means less traffic on the road, which is safer for everyone he said.

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unknowncronik says:
How did the city get by 20 years ago when there was way more snow? I think wages are just too high, making it impossible to get a fair job done without paying thru the roof for it!!
Enough high wages already!
12/17/2013 12:04:23 PM
DRL1979 says:
My question to your post is what do you think is a fair wage? Maybe city employees should work for free. How does that sound?
12/17/2013 1:29:47 PM
smartguy83 says:
A trend towards more mild winters and less snow will lead any municipality to adjust their budget accordingly. They likely have allocated the spending elsewhere. At this point, these reallocated funds would be spent as the year is basically over.
12/17/2013 2:12:00 PM
rootbear says:
I wouldn't really call this early winter blast, it's December. I would budget for first of December to end of April. Maybe even May next year!
12/17/2013 12:30:43 PM
smartguy83 says:
We have had a few green Christmases lately. The city is adjusting to the climate. This year will be a wake up call that huge snow falls in December will still occur some years.
12/17/2013 2:13:06 PM
rootbear says:
Exactly! But, I guess if they over budgeted and had surplus, it would end up being used elsewhere.
12/18/2013 10:10:06 AM
nvjgu says:
Ya well a plow went by my place plowing nothing but bare pavement and the sparks were flying at 3 in the morning. My first thought was, why was he plowing the road, it's bare pavement. Here's a novel idea. Don't plow snow that's not there.
12/17/2013 12:39:02 PM
ozone says:
Enough with the excuses of poor performance by the Roads Division.. Mr Adams!!

Council needs to look not only at snowplowing but the road repairs or lack of in this city.
12/17/2013 1:51:08 PM
CM Punk says:
More excuses from council to raise the taxes on the residential homeowner again.
As others said, years ago we had way more snow and did just fine.
Too much thick gravy at the city chain here.
And with the police budget coming up, I am sure more money will be asked by the bottomless pit of the tax payer.
This really needs to stop, never seen such mismanagement in my life.
This is worse then WWE creative team trying to come up with good story lines.

Then you wonder why charities are not meeting their targets, crime is high, poverty numbers going up, people moving away, and those who simply just do not care.
12/17/2013 1:55:20 PM
smartguy83 says:
Have you ever sat through the budget process. Trends are always considered. The Thunder Bay trend has been less snow, especially in December. Therefore the budget has been adjusted to reflect this. Common sense. I'm 90% confident without even looking back at previous years that we have had huge savings in this area before due to the recent climate shifts.
12/17/2013 2:14:54 PM
Ranma says:
So all the years of us not getting snow, and them claiming it as a surplus, has finally turned around and bit them in the butt. Council would slowly lower the amount budgeted towards snow removal, because every year we needed it less and less until after january. Well this shows how short sighted they are. We live in Canada, and snow is a part of winter.
12/17/2013 2:02:32 PM
Its not because of the winter weather that our budget is blown. Council blew the budget much earlier in the year, way to blame the weather though!
12/17/2013 2:29:16 PM
fastball says:
Um...they called it the "winter roads budget"
in the story. Way to read and use those comprehension skills, though!
12/17/2013 6:04:07 PM
Chaos says:
City staff must think we are stupid.
Average snowfall in December last five years is 22.46 mm; as of December 16 we are at 14.4. "winter weather slams" ...what a joke. Check Enviroment Canada website:

14.4 mm up to December 16, 2013

16.9 mm December 2012

14.8 mm December 2011

27.5 mm December 2011

23.3 mm December 2009

29.8 mm December 2008

Average snowfall for December last five years is 22.46 mm

The weather is normal and they are simply imcompetent and blaming everything but themselves. SHAME!!!

Where is the investigative reporting...quit just writing down what they tell you.
12/17/2013 2:30:18 PM
drdolittle says:
I'd make sure your math is right and apply some common sense as you're writing. If I take your post at face value we've only had 1.44 cm of snow in the month of December 2013. If you look outside you can see that this is incorrect. Not sure if it was a typo on your behalf or if EC is that wrong but either way this post is not a true representation of the last few years of December weather.
12/17/2013 2:49:03 PM
fyzhix says:
Taken from Environment Canada:

To calculate the water equivalent of snow, we melt the snow captured in snow gauges. The Geonor, Pluvio, and Fischer-Porter gauges melt freezing and frozen precipitation directly with glycol, then report the Snow Water Equivalent amount in millimetres.

At staffed sites the observer takes the gauge containing the snow indoors, melts it, then pours the resulting liquid into a plastic measuring tube that is calibrated to show the water equivalent of the snowfall.

In many snow events a ratio of 10 to 1 can be applied to the amount of snow to determine its water equivalent. In other words, 1 centimetre of snow is equivalent to about 1 millimetre of water once the snow is melted. This means that in many snowfall situations (on days when only snow fell), you can simply change the units from millimetres to centimetres on the "Yesterday's Precipitation Total" on a specific location's weather page to get a reasonably good idea of how much snow fell.
12/17/2013 6:58:02 PM
Decide says:
Might wanna change your "mm's" to "cm's". You know that 14.4mm is 1.44cm,s right? If you think that is what we got the other day, then you are on glue.
12/17/2013 9:20:28 PM
tsb says:
Most of that precipitation was rain! This is the first December in several years to not have any rain! In December 2011, almost all of that snow fell on one day. In 2008/2009, the snow budget was over budget.

drdolittle: 1mm of precipitation is 1cm of snow, so that is 14cm of snow. The amount is much greater, though; we've received at least 25cm of snow. It depends on how dense the snow. What we got yesterday was not dense at all, it was very light, so that 1mm probably got stretched to 1.5cm of snow.
12/17/2013 10:02:05 PM
buddyrose says:
If you actually follow this Environment Canada weather reporting station on a regular basis, its reporting can be terribly inaccurate. For instance, on April 19/13 when the city was actually slammed with 30cm+ of snow, they reported 3.5mm of precip and a mere 4cm on "snow-on-ground" the following day. I wouldn't call any number you find on that site the gospel.
12/18/2013 6:58:26 AM
conker2012 says:
Problem being since 2008 it has rained several times in December so the values shown may now represent snow, but rain instead.
12/18/2013 11:31:09 AM
virtualrealityczech says:
one way to save some money is that when there is only a half-inch of snow on the sidewalks, don't rush out with the sidewalk plows, which seems to be the case... then there might be money in the budget to plow the sidewalks in a timely fashion when there is a significant snowfall instead of having to walk on the streets for 3 - 4 days waiting for the walkways to be cleared.
12/17/2013 2:37:47 PM
ring of fire dude says:
The City has to rush the sidewalk plows out , can't have the 100's of employees sitting around waiting for the snow to fly .
12/17/2013 4:47:28 PM
stonecutter says:
sometimes there is more snow...sometimes there is less snow...

My street is ploughed decently enough.

good job city.
12/17/2013 2:53:07 PM
Meta says:
Speak for yourself. You must live like a king!
12/17/2013 4:14:15 PM
stonecutter says:
HA! At least there are no bike lanes on my street!

12/18/2013 9:34:08 AM
tadzup says:
I would much rather see my tax dollars go to this than some entertainment center, youth center, or other unnecessary 'cause'. The Snow removal (or lack thereof) directly affects our safety, and not just for drivers.

Drivers certainly should slow down in snowy weather, but slowing down can only do so much when the snow banks are 5+ feet high and are impossible to see around, and the lines are covered with snow (apparently they dont plow until the snowfall is done?) so people are driving all over the road.
12/17/2013 2:53:44 PM
Slyder says:
I highly doubt they are over budget becasue of December... or did everyone forget we had snow until the end of May this year?

12/17/2013 3:42:34 PM
fastball says:
Yes, they're over budget for 2013 - primarily because of last April.
On the average, we get about 8cm of snow in April - however, last April was a freak month as we got over 70cm of snow during the month. They didn't expect to have to run the equipment and drivers for a whole additional month. You budget for what the average amount should be - and unfortunately, we got TEN TIMES the average.
Last April still counts in the 2013 budget.
12/17/2013 4:30:17 PM
Dudebro says:
Honestly, who cares...they have to plow the roads when there's enough snow. Its always happened and its going to continue to happen.
Its quite obvious they're going to do what they want to anyway. People will never be pleased.
Go in your house, shut your door and quit worrying about it.
12/17/2013 4:39:14 PM
sd says:
Those numbers seem totally wrong. But lets pretend they are correct and snowfall this December is less than average. Do you think snowfall amounts are the only factor? Last year we had larger snowfall in December but they were followed one or two days later by heavy rainfalls therefore before it came time to clear snaller streets at the rate of $25,000 per night the rain had taken care of it. Another factor is called wind. Look it up and learn about its effects. The first couple storms here this year were coupled with high winds often from the east. This makes it difficult to accurately measure snowfall amounts accurately. Another factor is temperature. In recent yeats December is often warmer with some days even above 0C. This hasn't happened this year. This creates very light snow which easily blows into drifts and across roads in the high wind I just spoke of. Meaning that long after snow stops accumulating plowing type work is still required.
12/17/2013 4:42:24 PM
S Duncan says:
You cant judge snow removal costs by snowfall accumulations. You have to go by "events".

If you get 2 dumps of 15 centimetres or 3 dumps of 10 the cost depends on the event, and has little affect on the amount of accumulations unless their are freakish amounts of snow.

Nevertheless, snow removal budget should be manageable. The city could budget a high number and in the even there is a surplus, they could mail refunds/dividends back to taxpayers.

That would be the proper way to do it, but we all know the city would never, ever give back a tax dollar.
12/17/2013 5:10:29 PM
Me n My Opinion says:
S Duncan, you're correct in that they budget by events. It costs approximately the same to clear 10 cm as it does to clear 20 cm in any single snowfall. They also consider trends over the past number of years and budget accordingly. If they overbudget in a particular year, then that surplus amount goes into the reserve fund the story mentions. If they underbudget in a particular year, they draw from that reserve fund to cover the added cost. That helps to smooth the budget from year to year. Budget on averages then take from or remove from the reserve fund as necessary.

And as a couple people have mentioned, they're not over budget just because of this month. They had a far higher number of events in March and April this year than normal. The City's fiscal year goes from Jan 1 to Dec 31, so the costs they are talking about are those that happen during that period of time, not from Nov 2013 to April 2014. They're nearing the end of their year.
12/18/2013 8:55:17 AM
The Badger Mountain Hermit says:
Too much fluff to pay for now...looks like they've completely lost sight of who they are here to serve for...US...not THEMSELVES. 95% of city expenses are wages and benefits.
12/17/2013 5:32:54 PM
thunderbaycouncel says:
i think the River Terrace propery taxes alone should cover the costs.
12/17/2013 6:14:30 PM
whatelseisnew says:
I can't speak for every other tax pay in this city but I am SICK AND TIRED of this one horse town crying broke over EVERYTHING! How can this town be over budget in December? I get that last winter seemed to have lasted forever but come on, we live in Northwester Ontario! Snow during the winter up here is not a surprise and for council to act like it is means something is wrong at the old town hall. If we run out of money ploughing roads and side-walks how in the hell can we afford a new arena (entertainment building or whatever council is calling it to access money from the Province)?
This is not a matter of snow removal employees making too much money, this is poor management of money at town hall.

It is time for the people of this town to start a rally outside of town hall and demand to know what is going on there. In fact this town hall meeting should be held at the Gardens and the time of this meeting should be advertised in advance on TV, Radio, print and social media!
12/17/2013 6:40:06 PM
murillorules says:
to whatelseisnew - Do you realize the city budgets on a calendar year? It is pretty clear from reading the article that they are over budget due to spring storms in addition to this month's above average snowfall. Some years it snows more, sometimes less. A couple of idiots rallying outside City Hall probably won't change that much.
12/18/2013 7:00:53 AM
brooky says:
Council should budget 100 billion a year for snow plowing. Then we'd have a huge surplus and everybody will be happy happy happy....
12/17/2013 7:26:16 PM
ThunderBayFullOfCrime says:
I say we riot if they build the events center. We can't afford it and I agree with the poster above, I'd rather have safer driving and sidewalks cleared for the elderly. I probably wont even go to the events center in my lifetime.
12/17/2013 8:10:19 PM
fastball says:'s one or the other? Like if we build an events center, we won't get the snow removed....those are our only two choices? Give your head a shake.
Any future facility will be funded by a combination of local funds and contributions from senior levels of government - and perhaps some kind of long-term loan like they did with the hospital.
But for the rest of us peons, it's heartening to know that you are so intimately familiar with our city's present and future financial picture.
12/18/2013 9:09:12 AM
Dbenedic says:
How high do the snow banks have to get along the major city routes before they get out that big snow blower/ dump truck and cut down the banks so we can see traffic to get out onto roads?
12/17/2013 8:26:35 PM
rootbear says:
Too late for that now! Overbudget. But seriously, my front yard has a sidewalk. incidentally, the sidewalk plow went by this snow. Anywho, the snow bank on the street keeps getting pushed around by the sidewalk and road plow. It all gets pushed into my drive and I have to shovel back again.....a vicious circle.
12/18/2013 10:06:45 AM
silverado92 says:
It amazes me how many iggorant people post about a system they have no clue on??? first of all ther isn't 100s of employees doing the clean up as one poster suggested... there are actually 20-25 guys per each side of town cleaning and sanding roads walks and lane ways... second of all clean up and sanding is required regardless of amount to prevent law suits that can cost millions if lost... equipment and fuel is not donated, it needs to be purchased... one grader alone is a quarter million dollars so do the math when you factor in sanders and sidewalk tractors... bottom line is snow removal costs a lot of money but no one seems to complain when they wake up in the morning and can get to where they need to go without issue... I know that some people on here think the snow gets cleaned by fairies and elves but its actually hard working, dedicated, sleep deprived roads workers that do an amazing job with the limited resources they have ..
12/18/2013 12:23:14 AM
nvjgu says:
Total BS. here it is Dec 18th it's 5 am in the morning there's no snow on the road to plow and a plow is in front of my house right now scraping pavement sparks are flying, No wait here comes another one, What are these plows on the road for, Do they plow 24/7 even if there's no snow, No wait here they come again, what a noise.
12/18/2013 6:05:00 AM
Arch Stanton says:
Credit where credit's due...

Thanks to the crews who have plowed and gritted the Mountain Road area - you're doing a great job. Haven't seen so much snow here in December in 10 years but we're able to get out, pretty much on-time, every day.

12/18/2013 9:21:15 AM
johnschmidt says:
More excuses..I do delivery driving in this weather, and after both the large snowfalls that have come, the CITY does not clear side streets, streets with alot of vehicular traffic or even the main drags. There is no words to describe how I feel about this. This is extremely unsafe how the city works on the roads. 3 days after the snow falls is good enough for the city.
12/18/2013 9:41:42 AM
connieFOG says:
We all know the amount of snow we get every year, why is this discussion always brought up?
12/18/2013 11:07:15 AM
conker2012 says:
If you want lower snow removal budget the clear the snow from in front of your house. If every person shoveled or snowblowed the street and sidewalk (excluding major routes) infront of their house then there would be no need for contractors and the city could reduce the snow clearing budget.

Unfortunately the elderly of disabled cannot afford to have someone clear their driveway and street if they are not capable.

12/18/2013 11:38:51 AM
connieFOG says:
POOF goes the budget
12/18/2013 11:40:41 AM
livewire says:
I think that the dollars saved over the pass few years went to the Marina & Consultant's. Don't forget the election is around the corner.
12/18/2013 12:28:31 PM
my 2 cents says:
@ virtualrealityczech & ring of fire dude

Before you talk about the waste of sidewalk clearing you should go out and see how many disabled and elderly people use them. I would gladly lend you my manual wheelchair and have you attempt to push yourself through the "cleared sidewalks" as they are now, because it is more than a workout, in some places it is near impossible to pass. You can probably still see my tracks by the FW Gardens where my wheels sunk into the layer of snow still present. And you suggest waiting until there more than a half an inch of snow before doing anything it. Let me know when you are up for the challenge, I don't mind teaching people about empathy.
12/18/2013 12:34:07 PM
silverado92 says:
Hey nvjgu ... Toal BS to you that there is no snow in front of your house.. the whole city is covered but you amazingly live in a heat belt I guess... You obviuosly are a bitter old person that probably pushed a broom at the mill his whole life.... Again YOU HAVE NO CLUE!! You think you have the answers, I gladly invite you to come pusha couple blocks and see how "easy" it is to do this job night after night!

p.s. Thanks ARCH STANTON... at least you are a man that can give credit when its due...
12/18/2013 12:55:53 PM
ThunderBayFullOfCrime says:
This city is disgusting at blowing tax payers dollars on stupid and useless things.
This year has the same amount of snowfall as other years, why are we over budget already?

I think we need to stand up and stop allowing our tax dollars to be wasted on projects that lead us more into debt. No more million dollar pieces of artwork, no more trips to china, no more events center. We don't need these things, we need a bigger hospital, food for the poor and homes for the elderly.

It's not hard to understand. The city is great at providing stuff they want but not the stuff we need.

12/18/2013 1:03:09 PM
Me n My Opinion says:
ThunderBayFullOfCrime says "why are we over budget already?" Already? You do realize we are less than 2 weeks from the end of the year?

I'm sure the City could budget high enough every year to make sure they're not over, but guess what? If they do that, your taxes are what go up to ensure they have enough. Your taxes are based on their budget. Instead, they budget on a five or seven year historic average number of snow events. Then, the years they've budgeted too high, they put that surplus into a reserve fund, like saving for a rainy day. Then when that rainy day comes (ie, a higher than average snowfall fiscal year), they take some of the money from the rainy day account to pay for the extra. That way, the budget changes little from year to year, and the rainy day fund remains available to draw from instead of needing a spike in taxes to cover it. The system works perfectly. It's not the end of the world to draw from the rainy day fund. That's what it's there for.
12/18/2013 4:48:01 PM
TWM says:
Last year was quite mild and the budget surplus amounted to a reduction in this years budget forecast. This is what happens when you let a automatic calculation create a budget for the next year, you gain on money but lose out on common sense.
12/18/2013 2:05:26 PM
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