Tbnewswatch Local News
Wednesday July 1 2015
5:08 PM EDT
2014-09-04 at 13:24

Winter control

tbnewswatch.com file photograph
By Jamie Smith, tbnewswatch.com

THUNDER BAY -- About $700,000 could help the city during harsh winters according to a report heading to city council Monday night.

The city's winter control budget has been running in the red since 2011 due to harsh winters and is expected to be more than $2.2 million short by the end of this year.

Based on a five-year average, which the city uses to determine its control budget, it's under-funded by a little more than $700,000. It's the reason administration is recommending council consider bumping it up by $700,000, bringing it to around $4.6 million, next budget season. Any money left over would be put in the city's winter control reserve fund to bring it back to at least $2 million.

"That should soften the blow if we do get severe winters again in the future," roads manager Brad Adams said.

It also recommends around $100,000 for route optimization software.

"If there's a savings there we could find out," Adams said.

The city would also go to a sand-only policy for it's more than 1,100 kilometres of residential streets. That wouldn't apply to the other 780 kilometres considered arterials and collectors. Salt would still be used on residential streets with curves, hills and during extreme weather.

"To make sure they're safe," Adams said.

Coun. Rebecca Johnson said the city, and the next term of council that would be approving the $700,000 ask, needs to take a serious look at its winter control given the past couple of seasons. But that money has to come from somewhere.

"If we're going to be putting more money into this particular budget then we have to seriously look at where we would decrease another budget," she said.

"We can't just keep bumping up our overall budget for these things."

Budgets aren't determined randomly but are evidence-based Coun. Andrew Foulds said. Given the past two years, the increase is a responsible one considering anysurplus woudl go back into the reserve fund to help the city prepare should it be hit by harsh winters in the future.

"This is about providing a quality service to the public that the public wants, that the public thinks is important. I am not prepared to cut service that would put peoples' lives at risk," Foulds said.  

It's the reason Foulds won't support any of the options included in the report. The report also considers several other options that council could choose to adopt in the future. Currently residential streets are plowed after ten centimetres of snow. That could be bumped up to 15. The expected time to plow those streets, right now three days, could increase to four. Sidewalks would also not be plowed during overtime hours.

Adams said those options though are not currently being recommended but are being brought to council for discussion.

Coun. Paul Pugh said he couldn't support any initiative that would see reduced service for people. This term of council has done well to support the city's infrastructure but it also needs to keep services in mind.

"The other side of it is the services people need and we can't forget that," he said.

With a background in economics, Pugh said he's kept a close eye on the city's books and doesn't see any logical reason why council would consider reducing services.

"The city is not in any kind of financial difficulty," he said.

The council agenda, and the winter control report, can be found here. 

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We've improved our comment system.
orig junkyarddog says:
Since Mr John Hannam decided to deny the citizens a look at this councils final decisions before the election, I would suggest some phone calls and e-mails to voice your objections and concerns. I as a candidate for McKellar Ward feel that televising the final council meeting would be beneficial to the new candidates as well as in incumbents

Doug Powell candidate for McKellar
9/7/2014 4:48:19 PM
nvjgu says:
City is out of touch with it's self. left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.
9/6/2014 4:08:52 PM
sc says:
The amount of snow that we receive each winter is a complete mystery as this is something that we cannot predict in advance and it is something that we have absolutely no control over.

Never mind the five year average for snow removal budget, assume worst case scenario each year. Eventually there will be a surplus in the budget and then there is no need to worry if we were to have an extremely snowy winter.

Safety is of utmost importance for all, especially children walking to/from school and on school busses. Any cutbacks should not compromise the safety of motorists or pedestrians.

If the City chooses to change plowing schedules and plowing based on snow amounts, I wish good luck to those people whose streets generally don't get plowed until day 3 when there is a 10cm snowfall. I guess if they go to 15cm limits and longer wait times for plowing, I'll see you in the Spring.

We pay enough in taxes each year that snow removal should not be an issue!

9/5/2014 1:07:46 PM
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Jack Frost says:
City administration recommends another wasteful $100,000 for unnecessary route optimization software.

Winters have been occurring since the beginning of time, but to look at this city's administration and roads department you would think it was their first !!

What ever happened to responsible management and common sense ?!?!

It's so sad that the city CLOWNS running this GONG SHOW do not spend the our hard earned TAX dollars as though they've worked hard for and earned it, I'm sure it would be a much more different show then...

9/5/2014 12:47:36 PM
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CM Punk says:
Oh, and you gotta love it when the plows come after hours, Sundays or on the holiday so they can get paid 3x or whatever they get paid for.
Just a suggestion to maybe not hold off on plowing until the pay grid goes up.
9/5/2014 11:16:15 AM
conker2014 says:
Changes I want to see to the snow removal strategy:

1. Property owners in no core commercial areas or on major arterial routes must clear their own sidewalks.

2. Snow removal after every snow fall on major arterial routes and in the core areas.

3. Make calendar parking year round for planning of summer maintenance and repair work.

4. ENFORCE THE NO PARKING SIGNS! Start towing any vehicle illegally parked that is blocking a snow plow from doing their job properly. Tickets should be for summer or at low snow times.

5. Put city snow removal employees on call. Pay them 40 hours a week regardless if they work or not, but no overtime until they put in the 40 hours that week and all weekends are not overtime. This way if it snows once a week and the staff works 2x12hour night shifts in a week they only get 40 hours pay instead of (40+24) 64 hours with 24 at overtime rate. The team would also have to be split into on call days and on call nights (for safety reasons).
9/5/2014 9:15:47 AM
nvjgu says:
Sand away I say. It will fill in all the cracks and holes. Use lot's please.
9/5/2014 5:49:06 AM
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Harvey says:
There will be no tv coverage or online coverage of city council meetings until December. The city clerk should be ashamed of himself for pulling the plug on the coverage of city council meetings. The city clerk comes up with this nonsense and total stupidity that continued tv coverage will give the incumbents an unfair advantage.
9/4/2014 10:26:47 PM
festus says:
Where did you hear this thing about "no tv coverage or online coverage of city council meetings until December"
9/5/2014 9:23:52 AM
anarnosti says:
In Calgary the homeowners are responsible for clearing the snow from the sidewalk in front of their house.. maybe its time to follow suit.. just an idea.
9/4/2014 9:09:17 PM
SomeGuy says:
When I first moved to Thunder Bay I was amazed that the city cleared by sidewalk in front of my house. I thought it was such an odd thing to do.

Neighbours would shovel the sidewalks of people who could not shovel it themselves. We even had one guy who had a big snow blower do a good dozen or so houses besides his own because he enjoyed it but I think it was he had to justify having such a big snow blower to his wife.
9/5/2014 8:38:08 AM
gurty says:
In most cases (if not all), the sidewalks are property of the city thunder bay. I will continue to clear the part on my driveway. Just try to tell me to clear the snow from the rest of the sidewalk! Laugh!
9/5/2014 9:28:10 AM
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cachinnate says:
Not just Calgary, but most other cities in Southern Ontario too. I've lived in Kitchener/Waterloo, and had to clear my sidewalk within 24 hours of a snowfall event.
The main problem with this arrangement is enforcement, as many people just don't bother. I've had to walk my kids to school on the road at times because the sidewalks were nearly impassable. Even after reporting the offending residences to bylaw enforcement, we saw little improvement.
9/8/2014 10:20:27 AM
YellowSnow13 says:
"$100,000 for route optimization software" I would of thought the crack IT department you have at City hall could write the software. To spend that kind of money on that software it better be used.
I've had my sidewalk cleared almost every Sunday after the snow. I already shoveled it so why are you there. You want to do something right. Stop plowing side streets sidewalks and do what the big cities do. Have home owners shovel the part in front of their house. You don't do it. You get a ticket. That will save some money and get you some at the same time.
9/4/2014 8:10:16 PM
Tannoy says:
Yeah because we don't shovel enough here, and with our large senior population Im sure the heart attack rate will skyrocket. Not everyone has a snowblower
9/8/2014 10:38:05 AM
Jack Frost says:
On Jan. 17, shortly after 1 a.m., I shockingly watched a marked City Roads sanding truck slowly drive by working the street I live on and uselessly and foolishly sanding/salting the heavily snowed and unplowed street.

Then shortly after 8 a.m. and only a very short seven hours later and with no traffic since sanding, I now watched the city grader only now finally plow and clean the heavily snowed street removing all traces of the night shift's costly, useless and foolish sanding and salting from just a few short hours earlier.

Where exactly is the common sense and logic of this city's roads department manager and obviously lack of diligent planning to winter roads work.

Roads management's snow removal for this year has earned a colossal failure in their very poor work and timing in keeping our city's streets clear of snow and ice.

Thunder Bay residents and taxpayers certainly deserve a whole lot better for our hard earned dollars.
9/4/2014 7:16:18 PM
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Mindboggling says:
Really ... Stop plowing side streets... I think I pay my taxes just like everyone else to have that service. Why should my vehicle be stick on a side road! They barely get plowed as it is. Sometimes the ruts are so bad you practically have to wear neck brace and helmet to drive down the side streets before they are plowed. Definitely NOT the answer!
9/4/2014 6:37:01 PM
Scott Taylor says:
Not sure how the city runs but why did they spend million on the water front ? I think it could have went to better Prevent crime Snowplowing
9/4/2014 6:10:43 PM
signman says:
Paul Pugh states the city is not in any kind of finanacial difficulty.

Really. The city has admitted our debt will rise $15 million by years end from $169 million to about $184 million dollars.
Golf links road is being debentured because the city refused to take the money out of the renew Thunder Bay fund and instead is saving it for another white elephant we don't need and can't afford. As a result the second phase of Golf Links road is being debentured as the city can't seem to find any available funds.

The repairs to Boulevard dam have been pushed back another year and perhaps the city will address this problen next year.

Let's be honest the city is in a financial mess and just the fact Mr. Commisso tried to get another 1% out of the taxpayers this year after the budget was set is a good indication on just how bad things are.

As long as the city keeps pouring our tax dollars into the Waterfront by the bucket full nothing will improve.

9/4/2014 5:41:39 PM
spazz says:
I know it's been suggested by other people and you just sidestepped answering, but why don't you run for council since you have all the answers?

Is it because in an election you don't get to count the results yourself?
9/5/2014 10:53:38 AM
glass half full says:
Stop spending money on bike lanes! Use the cash to remove the snow.

9/4/2014 4:07:52 PM
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tsb says:
They spend barely $50,000 a year on bike lanes! The snow removal budget needs 14 times that!

What else would you like to cut?
9/4/2014 6:42:08 PM
glass half full says:
Well my friend $50,000 is a good start.

and since you asked.

1- Redundant city staff fired or laid off
2- Event Centre
3- Paving FWFN roads
4- Paying consultants for every decision, we have city managers!
5- All "grants" if an organization or company needs cash, do like the rest of us and get a bank loan
6- Free meals during council meetings
7- Needless idle time of city vehicles
8- Bike repair stations on bike routs

Every penny counts! so your argument of 14 times more just does not stand up.

Also clearly over 80 likes to my suggestion and two likes to yours.

9/5/2014 7:51:54 AM
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CM Punk says:
And perhaps having the sidewalk cleaners coming when there is actually a substantial amount of snow rather then coming 3x in one day when its bare pavement would save some money too.
9/4/2014 4:02:34 PM
boofer69 says:
It needs serious improvements... more money, less service??

Everyone remember the stretch of arthur st last year that say down to a lane three quarters for how long??!!


9/4/2014 3:13:21 PM
Arch Stanton says:
How about equipping chain-gangs of prisoners with snow-shovels to clear the side-walks...???
9/4/2014 2:53:08 PM
Tbaylifer 1 says:
Arch, are you sure your living in the right country? By some of your posts, it would appear, you might be happier living under a dictatorship or communist power. What's next, seniors? That will teach them for getting old and costing us money to care for. What about children in daycare? Nap time, please.
You seem to have the time. Why don't you get out there?
9/4/2014 4:45:04 PM
ring of fire dude says:
I would think that the prisoners would start beating each other in the head if you gave them shovels .
9/4/2014 8:27:38 PM
Jasper says:
A win, win then.
9/5/2014 10:02:02 AM
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Papercut says:
First off, I have to say our snow plowing is very good compared to other places, so kudos to the work done.

BUT, I think the administration needs to LOOK at the timing of staff getting called out to clear the snow. It apparently is timed so that maximum payout is recieved, according to a former employee I spoke with. By this I mean: they often wait until overtime is in effect, rather than going out earlier at straight time.
9/4/2014 2:16:27 PM
REG says:
Just think it's one of the poles at the water front. I wonder what we could get for it if we tried to sell it ???
9/4/2014 2:13:57 PM
virtualrealityczech says:
Maybe better budgeting would help out with the harsh winters. There must have been a surplus for those years when there was literally no now in mid-January and it was so mild at times that the pussywillows were re-budding. What happened to those funds?
9/4/2014 2:11:17 PM
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Tbsn says:
Why don't we stop plowing side street ever snow fall like every other major city in canada. It would save a lot money.
9/4/2014 2:08:16 PM
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