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Residential snow clearing begins in St. Albert following resident concerns

St. Albert was gifted with an instant winter on Nov. 16, leading some residents to voice concerns about the city’s snow-clearing efforts.
SA snowstorm DR138
Residential snow clearing in St. Albert typically costs $450,000, something the city budgets for once per year. FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

Residential snow clearing kicked off at 7 a.m. this morning after St. Albert residents voiced concerns surrounding the city’s snow-clearing efforts. 

St. Albert hardly saw a flake of snow until it was gifted with an instant winter on Nov. 16. John Potter, manager of transportation and waste for the city, said crews were out as soon as the snow was coming down. 

“Our teams were ready to go,” Potter said. “Every piece of equipment we had available to us was on the road.”

The city divides snow clearing into three priority categories: Ray Gibbon Drive and St. Albert Trail are both top of the list, with arterial and collector roadways coming second and third, respectively. 

While these operations are a part of regular service, Louise Stewart, senior manager of St. Albert’s public works department, said pulling the trigger on residential snow clearing is a decision the city takes “very seriously.”

Residential snow clearing typically costs $450,000, something the city budgets for once per year. The budget is not applied seasonally, but renews every calendar year, meaning while the city has now used its 2021 funding, funds reset in the new year. 

“We keep our fingers crossed that that’s all it will take,” Stewart said. 

If the city does need additional residential clearing — for example in the case of extreme snowfall — Potter added the city has the option of drawing from its contingency fund, if necessary. 

This time around, Potter said the city weighed the pros and cons of clearing residential streets. He said solid waste collection and emergency services were experiencing issues navigating residential roads, which played a factor, in addition to resident concerns. 

“The reality is people are getting stuck out there, and they’re frustrated,” Potter said. “That all goes into the equation to determine whether we spend the money or not [for residential snow clearing].” 

Residents voice concerns

Joe Fitzner, a St. Albert resident since 2007, said during his time in the city he has slowly seen “less and less” snow clearing. 

“When we moved out here, everyone said the snow clearing was amazing, and it absolutely was,” Fitzner said. “Then the last four years, it’s been hit or miss whether they’re clearing or whether they’re not.”

Speaking Nov. 24, Fitzner said Akins Drive, the main road toward Elmer S. Gish School, still hadn’t been cleared.

“I’ve been fortunate enough not to get stuck or be slipping and sliding too much,” Fitzner said. “My big curiosity is why are we waiting for the snow to get packed on so we have to end up driving on ice?”

JoAnn Martinez moved to St. Albert in 2015 from Brandon, Man. Martinez said the snow clearing in Brandon has given her insight into what a “fantastic” snow clearing could look like. 

“The snow fall is there, and the streets get cleaned in a relatively quick manner,” Martinez said of Brandon. 

This past week, Martinez said she saw different pictures on Facebook of residents with large windrows of snow left in their driveway, sometimes blocking in their cars.

“With all the taxes that we pay here, why are we not getting better service?” Martinez asked. 

Potter said when the city has a larger event such as the one on Nov. 16, they send truck plows out to try to move the snow as quickly as possible. 

“With the volume of snow that we had, it becomes a little difficult to put the snow exactly where we need to, but our intention is to try to minimize that windrow left in front of the driveways,” Potter said. 

Later, when the city is able to bring in hired equipment, Potter said skid-steers are used to ensure there isn’t a windrow left behind. 

In terms of perception voiced by residents that less snow-clearing has been underway in recent years, Potter said the city has actually increased levels, with the city moving to 24/7 snow clearing in the past four years. Stewart added the city held back on residential snow clearing last year due to less snow. 

Potter said residents can call 780-459-1557 if they have a clearing concern that needs immediate addition, or a sanding request. 

“We are try to do everything we can to give residents the Cadillac service to residents of St. Albert,” Potter said. “It’s what they deserve.”

Visit the City of St. Albert website's residential snow removal page for up-to-date information on the neighbourhoods in which snow clearing is in progress or completed.

Residents are advised to watch for snow removal signs in their neighbourhoods and park their vehicles on driveways in in their garages, rather than on the streets," the city says on its website, adding priorities for snow clearing include: ensuring neighbourhoods with the highest mobility issues are addressed as quickly as possible; clearing neighbourhoods with design and geographical challenges, such as hills/high inclines; co-ordinating with solid waste collection schedules.