The City of Mission’s snowplow fleet faced a particularly cold and harsh Winter season, melting most of next season’s budget.
Details on the 2021/2022 snow season were provided to council on April 19 in a report by the city’s department of engineering and public works.
“It was a challenging season for us,” said Dylan Stewart, roads and drainage operations manager.
The city faced 17 days of snow for a total of 105 centimetres and temperatures as low as -17 C; 28 centimetres fell on Christmas Day alone, followed by a week straight of -10 C nights, Stewart said.
Mission had four times the average snowfall in December, with temperatures 2 C lower than average, according to the report.
The city received many public complaints about access to services in the downtown core, bus stops and schools, the report said. Stewart said the Christmas timing, extended cold snap, manpower and equipment issues all contributed to the problem.
By the time snowplows cleared priority routes, the snow had compacted on smaller streets, and salting was no longer as effective, Stewart said.
On top of that, drivers were having to work around their holidays, he added.
“There were times where we weren’t working in the evening for a few hours,” Stewart said, “And I think that it’s hard for us to catch up when you have prolonged snow events.”
This was Stewart’s first season as operations manager. He said the rough weather’s helped him evaluate what can be done better.
The city’s 2021 budget for snow removal was seven per cent over budget, but out of the $670,000 set allocated for 2022, $535,000 has already been spent.
Most of that spending went towards material costs, vehicle repair and cleanup, Stewart said.
Mayor Paul Horn noted that out of the last nine years, snow removal has been over budget at least five years, “sometimes quite dramatically.”
Missionites pay just under $15 annually for the service, compared to $8 in Abbotsford, and $28 in Chilliwack.
The report suggests more capital spending is needed to address the service gaps, the most expensive of which is upgrading Mission’s aging snowplow fleet.
The city currently uses 17 vehicles: four tandem and two single-axle dump trucks, six one-tonne trucks, three backhoes, and one loader and one grader.
Two of these plows, however, were meant to be put up for auction before COVID restrictions halted the process, Steward said.
“They are past their life expectancy,” he said. “Mission is growing – 12 and a half kilometres of new roads in the last 10 years – I expect that would increase at least the same, if not more in the next 10 years.”
It will cost $180,000 for a new one-tonne truck with a plow and sander, but it wouldn’t be available until 2025, according to the report.
Other options made in the report to improve service: running the plows as 24-hour service in snow events, signing a new contract for sidewalk clearing, heavier brining of high priority and transit routes, bus stop snow removal, adding GPS tools to the plows, and initiating a volunteer snow clearing program (Snow Angels).
Council approved transferring $50,000 from the road paving program so three street cameras can be set up to allow the public to check on conditions.
Staff will be recommending revised spending package for the next budget cycle.