The snow removal and ice control policy for 2023 was up for review during the Vermilion Town Council meeting on December 20. Being such a hot topic, the current and ongoing snow removal had the Town subject to dozens of comments online and enough phone calls to make the mayor want to change his number.
In addition, two members of the community added it to their list of complaints during public commentary. Director of Infrastructure and Planning, Ben McPhee said the last time the policy was reviewed was in 2019.
Changes included the map designating priority roads (which allow access to schools, healthcare, and fire hall, etc.), 15 cm accumulation for some routes and 30 cm for others, details on when staff is called in on the weekend, windrows being left in the middle of streets up to 24 hours that would be completed the following day, and a new snow removal reserve.
McPhee said, “The potential reserve would accumulate from years where there is left over, and when there is a deficit it would be utilized. This policy is used with discretion as there are ever-changing circumstances such as snow that has blown not accumulated, etc.”
Currently, he estimated that they had only completed approximately 40 – 50 per cent of the town’s residential areas, as when another snowfall occurs, they pause and return to priority routes before resuming their original plan.
Councillor Martin asked if they were following the current policy, and McPhee said they were not as they’ve had budget constraints and were trying to balance first part of year and get through the rest of the year. Councillor Pulyk wanted to review the policy every year and re-examine the priorities.
“We know the downtown core around Christmas time is a busy time for the businesses, and by having the roads cleared prior to Christmas making it a ‘Priority 1’ for those two weeks – even on the weekends, or to have as a footnote. I just see that this has been an ongoing concern. It’s a catch-22, because people want low taxes. I’m thinking just some tweaking of the priorities for downtown. In January things in retail slow down,” said Pulyk. “I thought that the time frame you provided seems a bit long; perhaps consider shortening some of those days up. Within 21 days it seems a bit long, for Priority 1- within 5 business days, Priority 2 within 7 business days. There is a cost to shortening it, but we’ve got a high expectation in our community. If we can’t I understand, but I think that should be looked at.”
Councillor Martin suggested they add a communication policy that shows how communication is done and who is in charge so that councillors are in the loop and can also direct people properly. Having spoken with residents, he said some had called into the town, but didn’t know who they’d spoken to. Councillor Snow also wanted to review things annually and asked if they have any data on how many years were surplus vs. deficit. McPhee said he would have to get back to him.
McPhee also noted they average 1 km to 1.2 km per day which does not include places they are able to use the grader to push snow into ditches (on those days or places he said they can get extra done). To get the whole town done he said it would take about a month and a half working full business days without any priority routes being re-done.
“It’s not my job to direct Mr. McPhee on snow removal; this is an administrative thing. We have top-notch snow removal and I don’t think it’s fair to compare other municipalities, but if you bring up comparisons I want to hear which communities,” said Mayor Throndson. “I think 30 cm is high; we just had a 15 cm dump and it had a lot of people in trouble. We have dropped the ball this fall but it’s going to pick up - we may see some contractors soon. We are doing the best possible job out there.”
A motion was carried to table the discussion until the next meeting on January 17. If you have concerns regarding 2023 snow removal in Vermilion you can contact the town office at 780-853-5358 prior to the meeting