Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Slave Lake town councillors got a look at how much it would cost to up the town’s snow-removal game. For the type of snow-blower needed to remove windrows of snow from residential neighbourhoods, the starting price would be $600,000. This is the machine that blows snow into trucks. Three trucks would be needed to keep up with the blower, operations director Calvin Couturier told council at its March 8 meeting. That would be another $540,000. Plus three more operators, at about $210,000 per year. Total increase to the town’s budget: Around $1.4 million the first year.

Apparently this type of service level does exist in some municipalities. In most, it doesn’t. In some, council heard, the graders just plow through the neighbourhoods and don’t worry at all about leaving windrows across people’s driveways. Slave Lake graders at least have a gate that comes down, reducing what’s left across driveways to not that much.

How about if you hired out the trucking, Couturier was asked. $425,000 per year, was his estimate.
“And we’d still have to buy the snowblower.”

How about a partnership with the airport (which has a snowblower), asked councillor Steve Adams. It wouldn’t work, Couturier said. We’d need the machine at the same time.

Couturier’s report included a list of obstacles to quick and efficient clearing of Slave Lake’s streets that he called “hurdles.”

Parked cars on residential streets seems to be the biggest of these. He called it “a nightmare.” It was agreed that better communication – perhaps in the way of signs – could help. Couturier admitted communication efforts by his department haven’t been that great, especially this winter.

“Too busy,” he said. “We’ve been down two guys all winter.”

Garbage pick-up day is another hurdle Couturier mentioned. If a neighbourhood is scheduled for plowing, but it coincides with garbage day, it throws a monkey wrench into the rotation. We take a lot of flak for that, Couturier told council, but it’s no use trying plow streets with garbage cans all out.

People piling snow where it shouldn’t go doesn’t help either. Couturier told council some people have been known to blow their driveway snow onto the street, “and then complain to us!”

The upshot of the conversation was a motion to have administration bring a report on possible changes to the snow removal policy.

Only one item emerged as definitely in need of improvement, as well as being achievable without spending much money or creating other problems: better communication.

“I don’t think the average person has a clue (about the services levels/policy),” said councillor Francesca Giroux. “I didn’t until I was on council.”