The lowdown on total snow removal: it’s costly!

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Slave Lake town council got a bottom-line report last week on how much more it would cost to haul street snow out of town instead of storing it on people’s yards and roadsides. It’s not a pretty picture.

The annual increase to the budget would be $300,000 or $400,000, depending on how extensive the haul would be. And that doesn’t take into account the $195,000 for the big snowblower.

Perhaps not surprisingly, councillors weren’t jumping for joy at the prospect of the three to four per cent tax increase such an expenditure would require.

“Love the idea,” said councillor Steve Adams, at council’s Jan. 17 meeting. “Hate the price.”

The operational cost estimates were based on a test project the town had done the previous week. Borrowing the airport’s snow blower, they hired several trucks, wrangled several pieces of town equipment and cleared the northwest part of town of its accumulated snow. Response from the public was pretty positive.

Council didn’t rule it out altogether. In fact councillor Shawn Gramlich said, “I think it’s the way to go,” adding that there’s no rush.

“It’s pretty steep for me,” said councillor Kimberly Hughes.

What council did agree on was to put a survey out and get more feedback from the public. However, Adams was skeptical of that as well. Referring to such surveys generally, he said, “I honestly don’t think we’re getting a representative result.” Slave Lake has roughly 2,500 households, he said; how many responses did the last town survey get?

“Sixty-eight!” said mayor Tyler Warman, more or less proving Adams’ point. But on the other hand, Warman added, the last time the town did a survey on snow removal, it got something like 600 responses.

“It depends on the topic,” he said.

Warman went on to say he doesn’t think council should base its decision entirely on survey results, “but let’s pump one out and see what we can do.”

Other benefits of snow removal (vs. on-site storage) were mentioned, but not accounted for. They include less damage to roadside infrastructure (from graders), plus fewer problems with run-off and freezing that happen in the spring. On the other hand, storage capacity for snow out by the sewage lagoons could become an issue, as public works director Calvin Couturier warned council at the Jan. 10 meeting.

In the written report for council was a table showing the property tax impact on homes of various values. In year #1, the $300,000 additional expense would translate to $146 more on the annual tax bill of a $200,000 home. On a $550,000 home, it would be $458.

Removal vs in situ storage

On Jan. 10, the Town of Slave Lake borrowed the big snowblower from the airport, hired some trucks and got rid of all the snow on the streets in the northwest quadrant of town.

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