Tbnewswatch Local News
Wednesday July 1 2015
12:51 AM EDT
2014-03-25 at 02:06

Deep freeze

By Jamie Smith, tbnewswatch.com

The city will freeze in more ways than one after a harsh winter.

Council heard Monday that not only was it $3 million over budget in 2013 due to this winter's cold and snow, but that the $4 million budgeted for managing winter in 2014 is already gone.

If the city is hit with a similar winter at the end of 2014, that budget could take another $3.5 million hit.

Transit is already facing a projected to be $420,000 over by the end of the year, the bulk of that coming from rising diesel costs. A jump in natural gas is looking to push the number up another $100,000.

As of Monday, city manager Tim Commisso is reviewing all staff hiring and deferring or eliminating discretionary spending like non-essential travel.

User fees will also be looked at along with a review of all departments for potential reductions, adjustments or restraints.

Further action, which will be discussed Apr.28, might also need to be taken including deferring or eliminating all new jobs in this year's budget.

All non-essential capital projects will be looked at and when a person retires it could be used as an opportunity to streamline and reorganize city departments. It may even re-budget some of what was approved in last month's process.

The city will also re-evaluate the services it provides for winter control. The memo states that administration would usually wait until later in the year to bring up budget variances forward, but it needed to bring the matter to council's attention as soon as possible.

Coun. Rebecca Johnson said a hiring freeze should be the beginning of trying to deal with the overruns.

"It's sad but it’s the reality of it,” she said.

Coun. Andrew Foulds said the issue is serious but administration is already dealing with it and has strategies in place.

"We shouldn't be pushing any panic buttons here," he said.

Mayor Keith Hobbs said he's not happy about it but winter has pushed a lot of city budgets over the edge this year. The memo states Ottawa being $24.4 million over, Calgary doubling its snow removal costs and Windsor adding $1 million to its winter control by January.

"It's the weather and we don't control the weather," he said.

He said city workers have been busy all year clearing snow, fixing water mains and even removing snowbanks. Snowbanks alone cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars, which not a lot of cities remove he said.

"You want the service you have to pay for it," he said.

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lori says:
Wow this is one of those rare stories where we don't see our usual panel of experts blaming the province LOL

In keeping with our snow clearing theme does anyone know why the sidewalk plows were out today.

I am not kidding. I watched them drive over completely bare sidewalks.

Not understanding that at all.
3/26/2014 2:53:26 PM
tadzup says:
I would have liked to see that money go toward taking GOOD care of the main roads. My street, in the middle of nowhere in an area that is only driven or walked (generally) by those who live there, has had snowbanks removed several times already. There are still main streets that NEED the snow banks removed and they're focusing on some tiny little side street?

Not that I don't appreciate the snow removal in my area, BUT, not at the expense of having dangerously high snowbanks where it really causes an issue.
3/26/2014 7:58:40 AM
Jessica07 says:
Are city went over there budget on snow cleaning. We'll I went over too but you don't see me going city crying.
Maybe that's why there not attending to my business with have no water in place over 2wks.
3/25/2014 12:49:54 PM
fireice says:
I wonder what happened to looking after the basics 1st and if there was anything left over then maybe look into above and beyond stuff? I have no issue with a fancy marina or a multi-function complex several years down the road, once the basics are looked after and paid for. Our roads look like a third world country, water mains are breaking everyday and some people have no running water because of frozen/broken pipes. These issues have nothing to do with a long, cold winter, but all to do with neglect and spending in the wrong areas. Now we have no money for snow removal? This isn't Thunder Bay's first cold/snowy winter and it won't be our last but somehow nobody saw this coming?? This city has not reached Timex status and continues to pretend it is in the Rolex category. Absolutely nothing wrong with a Timex....keep it simple and look after the basics first!
3/25/2014 11:25:41 AM
fastball says:
Continuing to deny something won't make it any truer.
Yes, the budget overages lately are the DIRECT result of 10 times more snow than usual last April and 2014, and the longest cold snap in over a decade. The cold creates the frost in the ground, the ground freezes and heaves, the pipes bend and burst - or they freeze. They usually budget for 7cm of snow, and 70cm fall unexpectedly. They can't just leave it, they have to clear it...and that costs money.
The roads are crap because of the frost heaves, and the fact that they're salted to within an inch of their lives. Salt melts ice, which turns into water, water flows into cracks - freezes and expands, breaks asphalt.
And NO, nobody "saw it coming". Really, listen to yourself - how stupid is that to say?
You could spend every last dollar you have on fixing pipes and roads - and a super-cold winter will have you repairing them all over again.
Saying they "should have seen it coming" is viewing the world with 20/20 hindsight glasses.

3/25/2014 3:30:51 PM
cm punk says:
Ahh, to Fastball and others who comment about the sidewalks.
Where I live we all clean the sidewalks in front of our homes.
We don't need the city to come and clean them for us. They always come after the fact, even when its bear pavement on the ground.
Sometimes even 3x in one day.
3/25/2014 10:57:33 AM
fastball says:
Well, good for you. I mean that.
Some people, however, won't take care of their own sidewalks - and when they or someone else inevitably slips and falls, they'll run out and call a lawyer.
3/25/2014 1:24:21 PM
broken says:
From the Management Plan article yesterday: "The city is taking on more debt but it’s in good shape to do so administration says."
3/25/2014 9:53:38 AM
fluffy says:
The city wonders why its the 8th crappiest place to move to.
3/25/2014 9:19:08 AM
cm punk says:
So now the weather is to blame for the money woes.
Face plant time.
So the 4 million for this year is already gone.
Let's build that event center and get the new bridge built too
3/25/2014 9:17:16 AM
NewAgeOutlaw says:
If this city doesnt get its act together its going to be survival of the fittest soon.
3/25/2014 9:05:59 AM
YellowSnow13 says:
Maybe if my sidewalk wasn't plowed on Saturday that would save some money. Seems to be plowed a lot on Saturdays. Is that overtime?
3/25/2014 9:02:48 AM
Glyder says:
We got 1 or 2 cm or so of snow last night, did they really have to be out dumping salt all over the roads? Drive for the conditions. Cold weather overnight + snow on the road = possible ice.

Someone posted on another thread that people with all season tires need to get snow tires for the winter. Well, I have all season, and I drove just fine this year. Would I like snow tires? Sure would, but I could just not afford them this year.

3/25/2014 9:02:00 AM
Eastender says:
Reality rears its ugly head.
3/25/2014 8:52:48 AM
Cletus Van Damme says:
In other words... "pay up suckas"!
3/25/2014 8:44:27 AM
leafsfanatic says:
How about looking at ways to get a handle on your budgeting process? It seems that with overruns of $3 and now $4 million someone is severely underestimating the budget needs. Council keeps jacking up our property taxes, yet they still come up with a shortage? Something doesn't seem right here.
3/25/2014 8:44:14 AM
mr. realist says:
My favourite part of the story...

"Coun. Andrew Foulds said the issue is serious but administration is already dealing with it and has strategies in place."

Maybe you could talk to us about these 'strategies'...I know thats how I keep my kids sidetracked when I don't have an answer to something!

Don't worry kids...I'm taking care of it!

3/25/2014 8:27:57 AM
Curious says:
The hiring freeze should have been in effect before the 16 new people were hired. The city is toooo top heavy!
3/25/2014 8:09:55 AM
sky high says:
I'll bet you Suzuki and Gore are now going to start screaming about an impending ice age and try to make a few million each off of this prediction. On a side note, the citizens of Thunder Bay will blame council for this unfavourable variance and call for their resignations
3/25/2014 7:54:12 AM
SomeGuy says:
You have no idea how climate change works do you.
3/25/2014 11:38:26 AM
sky high says:
I know as much as you do. Obviously the climate is changing, Einstein, but I am intelligent enough to know (or honest enough to say) that climate change has very little to do with man. Was man at fault when the dinosaurs froze? Was man at fault when the earth heated up (before he existed)? You do realize that the earth has heated up and cooled down several times to extremes, killing off anything in its path? It is called a natural cycle, but if you don't believe me then throw your money in Suzuki's hat. He'll take it from you and give it to his kids (while they all jet around the world having a good laugh at your expense). Have a nice day
3/25/2014 12:03:45 PM
Ranma says:
But even with these "controls" I bet they still want their boondogle of an events center.
3/25/2014 7:37:08 AM
Waldo Lydecker says:
We do pay for the service. The problem is that you take the money we do pay and quickly give it away to other things we do not want, nor do we want to pay for.

I'm sorry but I am extremely angry over this mayor and council today. They continue to throw money away stupidly then put us further into debt just so they can use creative accounting tricks to make their preferred project appear more do-able.

Fire these idiots as soon as possible!
3/25/2014 7:30:34 AM
Samoa Joe says:
Sad and Pathetic times in thunder bay, they couldn't even afford to hire a private company to enforce calendar parking this winter. No enforcement= no revenue from parking infractions. Another brilliant decision by city administration.
3/25/2014 7:14:40 AM
thunderbaycouncel says:
City council should be ashamed of themselves. This is Thunder Bay, not Florida. Enough said. Learn how to budget.
3/25/2014 5:56:45 AM
SomeGuy says:
Really, they know how to tell the future now? There is no way to predict the winter we've had, unless you have a time machine.
3/25/2014 11:37:18 AM
fastball says:
C'mon...we've had about 5 years of pretty mild temperatures and usually we're almost snow-free by this time of year. So they budget on the average.
We were pretty much snow-free by March 20 last year...and then April hit with 10 times the average snowfall. Who budgets for TEN TIMES the amount?
Same with the temperatures - which have probably been the consistently coldest average days in two decades. I'm sure every one of us knew in advance that we'd have the kind of winter we did, right?
Realistically, who looks at their gas bill and says "We usually pay 250 dollars a month - but we'll budget for 2500 dollars this month"?

It's not really fair to point out the anomalies, and say that they should have been prepared. Otherwise, should we spend a billion dollars on a water treatment/sewer system that could potentially handle 100 times what the usual is?
3/25/2014 1:33:03 PM
cob says:
Hogwash! It's called a winter reserve fund. What happened to that if they were properly putting money in it during the mild, low snow winters? Poor comparison with the sewage plant; we know how that worked out; and this winter is hardly 100 times the average. Furthermore, last winter, despite what the spin masters in Admin are saying, wasn't that severe. We had a big dump in April, out of the ordinary perhaps, but hardly the blizzard of the century they make it out to be.
3/25/2014 9:46:05 PM
razor_burn says:
Well that explains why my sidewalk hasn't been plowed in over a month. My neighbor fell and broke her pelvis and is now suing the city. That saved you a lot of money eh? Hahaha. It'll cost the city 10 fold after she's done with them.
3/25/2014 3:30:24 AM
fastball says:
Winning the Thunder Bay lottery.
Fall and sue the city...instead of people being a little proactive and taking a little responsibility by clearing the walks in front of their own houses when it gets bad.
3/25/2014 10:09:34 AM
razor_burn says:
She wasn't in front of her house.
3/26/2014 5:47:35 PM
SomeGuy says:
This is the only city where I've lived that the City will shovel your residential walk.
3/25/2014 10:41:31 AM
Eastender says:
I would be surprised if she gets a penny. You see the conditions, ice, snow, and you choose to walk in those conditions, you assume full responsibility for your decision.
As long as the city was making a reasonable effort to clear, and sand, you dont have a leg to stand on. (No pun intended).
Good luck proving negligence.
3/25/2014 11:28:42 AM
The Critic says:
Hey Johnny Cochran,

The sidewalks around my neighborhood have not had any salt/gravel added to them in weeks, since well before the past few thaw/freeze cycles. The sidewalk plow has came by a few times in this period but has done nothing for the ice build up.

Walking to work has been treacherous to say the least, especially with a thin layer of powder snow on top of the ice; luckily I have cat-like reflexes.

What would you suggest seniors do (especially ones who may not have use of a car)? Walk on the roads instead?

Maybe Canada Post can issue crampons to everyone in Thunder Bay once the new super mailboxes are implemented everywhere.
3/25/2014 3:05:22 PM
cob says:
Hear, hear. Exactly the same in my neighbourhood. When the sidewalk plow does come along towing the sander, the intermittent sprinkle here and there accomplishes one thing only. They get to check the box, "Job Done" regardless of whether or not it was effectively done. Purely risk management driven with no intention of doing a proper job. I would sue and if the lawyer knows his or her stuff, they will win or the city will settle.
3/25/2014 9:41:05 PM
razor_burn says:
So far she's been offered six figures. She's going to take them for more than that.
3/27/2014 2:27:56 PM
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