The city department responsible for snow clearing is asking for more than $6.6 million to improve operations.
In a report to city council, which next meets Monday night, operations superintendent Bill Gaal outlines the results of an internal analysis of snow and ice control activities between December 2013 and January 2014.
The review was promised during the Jan. 20 council meeting where frustrations over the plowing work for the winter - particularly after a heavy snow fall in mid-December - were aired.
The money would cover the purchase of new equipment to replace aging graders, sanding trucks, sidewalk plows, front-end loaders and a snow blower - a $5.8 million capital expense. An additional heavy duty mechanic would also be required, as would the rental of two graders and the replacement of an unreliable tandem axle unit, resulting in a $583,000 increase to the snow operations budget.
"The performance of snow and ice control activities was not to anyone's expectations, for a number of reasons that have been outlined in this report," the document states.
The positives identified by a review committee - consisting of management, unionized supervisors and operators and union representatives - were acquiring equipment from contractors, the airport and neighbouring municipalities as well as adding an afternoon sidewalk-clearing shift.
The challenges, however, were numerous.
Problems with communications, both internally and externally were identified, with neither call centre staff nor the public receiving updated information in a timely manner.
Streets were also not cleared before each new snow and freeze cycle, causing rutting and rough driving surfaces.
The department also had difficulty gaining access to the additional equipment required in the face of so much snow and didn't act quickly enough when they knew they would be short on contractors.
"From an equipment perspective, with the intensity of the snow events and intermittent breakdown issues with the city's equipment, operations failed to react by leading additional graders," said Gaal's report.
Management's approval of too much time off was also an issue, said the report, with vacation requests before and during the snow event and stat holidays being honoured. "Furthermore, some employees refused overtime," said the report. "This resulted in the lack of operators, which meant not all equipment could be operated at all times, thereby contributing to delayed snow removal."
Finally, management and supervisors "failed to adequately monitor completed routes," which led to some streets being plowed multiple times while others went without.
To address these issues, the review identified a need to re-implement the heavy snow declaration, to alert the public they should stay off the roads and that they shouldn't be parking on roadways.
GPS equipment would be installed on all snow fleet equipment, staff levels increased and new ways of contracting extra equipment - instead of on an as-needed basis through a prequalification process - would be explored.
The review also produced a recommendation to council to amend their snow and ice control procedure to allow for the clearing of downtown streets to be completed over two nights, instead of the first evening of a snowfall.
"A two-night clearing would allow some of the arterials to be cleared that first evening," said the report. "In general, the change would allow for greater flexibility in heavy snow events."
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