City crews working hard to remove snow

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Mike Avramenko, roads team lead at the City of Airdrie, said he’s hoping the end of winter is coming soon. The City’s snow removal team has been hard at work since early February.

“We’ve been going steady, 24/7. You do get a little bit of help from Mother Nature, but when you get three weeks of -20 (and colder) temperatures and then you get another snowfall in there, it’s a continuous round and round you go,” he said. “You start with cleanups and priorities and then the next thing you know, we’re getting to the end and we get more snow and start all over again.”

Each year, the City budgets approximately $1.2 million for snow and ice removal, according to Avramenko. While the budget year is from January to December, he said snow removal season is from October 15 to April 15. The City has spent $1.3 million in total on snow removal over the last six months.

“It’s harder on our equipment. You’re going through blades and cutting edges a lot quicker and fuel – just wear and tear on the equipment,” he said. “In terms of material, the last five years we’ve averaged about 1,250 tons of pickle (a melting agent that looks like gravel and contains pickle brine) and this year we’ve got 1,800 tons out on the ground already.”

The City has used 1,000 tons of salt so far this year – most years, it uses approximately 1,100 tons for the entire winter season.

Avramenko said the City has also already used its usual amount of calcium chloride for the season – approximately 200,000 litres.

“We try to pre-wet if we know a big event is coming. We’ll try to get some of that out on the roads so that it doesn’t actually bond to the road,” he said. “It will actually stick to the road but it will be easier to clean up after.”

Snow removal is done by the City’s fleet of seven plow trucks with sanders, three loaders and two graders, one of which has a wing to use on rural roads.

City crews, like residents, are running out of places to put all that snow.

“We just opened up our own City of Airdrie snow storage facility this year on a four-acre site. To date, we’ve hauled 2,300 loads of snow. We’ve had a cat out there pushing up (the snow). It’s probably two-and-half storeys high,” Avramenko said.

Complaints from residents are a usual part of the season, according to Avramenko, who said 548 calls were received between Oct. 15, 2017 and March 5.

“All calls are directly related to winter operations, from inquiries to service levels, snow on sidewalk, plow windrowed on sidewalks, drifting on road, slippery sections, rutting on residential, road needs plowing, etc.,” he said.

Roads in Airdrie are cleared according to a snow and ice policy enacted in 2015. Priority one is major arterial routes as well as emergency services facilities, school zones on school days and areas reported by the RCMP. Priority two is collector roads and priority three is rural roads. Priority four is City-owned parking lots, while residential roads are priority five.

Avramenko said while he understands how annoying it can be to have mounds of snow on residential roads, public consultation has shown that while residents might want more service, they are not willing to pay more taxes for it.

Eventually, all the snow will melt and Avramenko said his department is working with the City of Airdrie’s water services group to identify where the biggest issues might occur.

“Now that we’re going to be getting, hopefully, into some melting days (residents can) do a little chipping along the gutter to help with the drainage,” he said.

For more information about Airdrie’s snow and ice removal policy, visit airdrie.ca

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