An elevated climate: Two B.C. cities look to increase their snow-clearing budget

By Shayna Wiwierski

Both the City of Kelowna and the City of Kamloops hope to increase their annual snow-clearing budget.

Currently, Kelowna’s budget is close to $1.7 million, with Kamloops at $1.6 million. Both have asked city council for an increase of $400,000.

“The reason we are increasing the budget is understanding that Kelowna is an ever-growing city. It’s expanding, the development is big, and we have increased substantially over the years,” says Stephen Bryans, the roadways operations supervisor with the City of Kelowna. “Things that have made a challenge for us are hillside developments, cul-de-sacs, and residential areas that are tough to plow.”

With the city’s current annual snow clearing and ice removal budget, that takes care of clearing the streets, some sidewalks, multi-use pathways, and some parking lots. That includes 1,650 lane kilometres and a sidewalk network of 450 kilometres. Since Kelowna is a microclimate with a substantial elevation, it may snow in some areas but not in others.  The city of Kamloops, located two hours north of Kelowna, is similar.

“We have a lot of upper elevations, so it may snow there, but not downtown. The temperature may vary quite a bit from up above to down below,” says Bryans, who adds that their biggest challenge isn’t the snow, but rather the actual freeze-thaw cycles that they have. For instance, it may be warm in the day, but freezing over night. That causes lots of ice issues and slippery roads.  “Our winters have been changing; more extreme events. We’ve have bigger dumps of snowfalls over the past three years, so that’s changed quite a bit.”

Bryans mentions that the first snowfall last year was on November 2, which is unusual for the area as typically snow starts after Christmas and is often gone by February. Since Kelowna is situated on Lake Okanagan, they also experience lake-effect snow, as the humidity from the lake causes cold air, which translates into snow downtown or along the lake area, but nowhere else in the city.

Because of the change in weather patterns, this past spring they went to city council with a request to add to the snow removal budget, which will increase contractors to help pile snow, as well as increase staffing levels, add more equipment and staff for weekends, and more. They will go to council again in October with the actual dollar figures for an operational budget.

Meanwhile, in the city of Kamloops, which has a similar climate to Kelowna, the Kamloops’ Civic Operations Department is also recommending an increase in the annual snow-clearing budget. That money, which includes $400,000 to cover three new full-time employees and other costs, as well as $564,000 for new equipment, will be used to increase communication to the public through advertising and social media, additional staff members, two new trucks with extendable blades and sanders, and an additional contract grader for large snow falls. Currently, the city has 14 sand trucks with blades, two liquid dispersal trucks, two graders, two sidewalk plows, and three loaders with various attachments.

In Kamloops, the City maintains in excess of 1,346 lane kilometres of public roadways that are divided into eight zones, which are prioritized as arterials, collectors and bus routes, and residential streets.  Kelowna also has snow routes in four areas of the city, which were implemented a few years ago. These snow routes are identified as areas that are particularly challenging for snow removal due to elevation, road grade (slope), roadway width, and numerous cul-de-sacs.

“If you are on a snow route, we will communicate to you that it’s now active so you have to have your car off that route,” says Bryans, who adds that they don’t have designated snow route days because of the way that the city gets snowfall. “We don’t do it ahead of time since we don’t know that you’ll get snow there. We have different micro climates, so there will be an area up top that will get hammered, but down below it’s not problem. It’s not all the time, but that can happen.”

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