Snow and Ice Policy Update

Overview

The City of Fernie has extended our review of how we manage snow and ice in order to create an effective new Snow and Ice Control Policy for the 2020/2021 winter season. Through the initial review process, we have determined that the way we currently deliver this service is not sustainable, and that significant changes need to be made. Before writing a new policy, we are running a pilot project to test and refine proposed operational changes. A public engagement campaign, via Let's Talk Fernie, will coincide with the pilot and the subsequent pilot review period, to gather community feedback to help guide the development of the new policy.

Pilot Highlights

As the City begins to test proposed changes to how we manage snow and ice, residents and businesses will see some noticeable differences:

  • Snow clearing will be prioritized by categories of use, not by geographic area. For example, business areas and schools will receive services before local residential areas. See the information below for full details on priorities.
  • No changes to snow clearing in the downtown business area.
  • Driving lanes on all roads will be cleared on day one after a snowfall.
  • On-street parking will be cleared beginning on day two after a snowfall and driveway windrows will be cleared at the same time.
  • Our past snow clearing practice was primarily road focused. The pilot will increase the number of sidewalks cleared and designated sidewalks will be cleared on day one after a snowfall.
  • We will no longer centre plow any areas outside the downtown core. This will impact select non-downtown businesses but will not affect most of the City where the practice is already to split plow.
  • Access to critical City infrastructure, like our water facilities and fire hydrants, will be cleared sooner.
  • Weekend snow clearing services will be reduced while still ensuring safe access for emergency purposes, business areas key infrastructure and major roadways.

Please review the map of driving routes and lanes, in addition to the sidewalks and pathways map for more information. 

Background

Currently, the City of Fernie provides snow and ice services to 65 km of roads, including on-street parking lanes, 3km of alley ways, 10 km of sidewalk, 40 public facilities, 5 off-street public parking lots, 9km of pathway, and approximately 130 driveway windrows for eligible homeowners who are signed up to our windrow program.

A full-plow response is triggered by 5 cm accumulation of snow and entails nearly our entire operations crew beginning work at 4 am. This typically includes 18 staff and 15 fleet and equipment across public works, parks and facilities, and bylaw enforcement, plus contracted services for hauling snow and grooming pathways.

Why are we reviewing the way we manage snow and ice?

Our existing policy and procedures are over 20 years old and lack the clear direction necessary to consistently and equitably deliver this service to the community. Over the past decades our snow and ice management practices have expanded in scope to a level that is putting a significant strain on resources, and staff have identified the following key omissions and reliances:

  • It does not incorporate different modes of transportation, and instead focuses prioritization solely on roads without taking sidewalks, and other commuter routes into account.
  • There is no clear prioritization of routes based on use, but instead areas are plowed sequentially within the five designated Operator Areas. This lack of prioritization means that City facilities and critical infrastructure are left until later in the process.
  • Our current practices rely heavily on voluntary overtime to get work done. On a full-plow day, City employees are asked to work a minimum of three overtime hours to deliver the expected service. This is not only expensive, but also means that the City cannot guarantee having the required staff in place to consistently deliver the service.
  • Reliance on overtime also has health and safety implications, with increased instances of sick time used and an uptick in safety incidents, including ICBC claims.
  • The extensive manpower required to mobilize the existing full-plow response takes staff away from important maintenance work in other service areas. This has an impact in the winter, but also results in deferred maintenance in other seasons when employees use their banked time. This means pothole repairs, street sweeping, water main flushing, park maintenance works, and other important services often end up taking a backseat to snow removal.

What are we proposing?

Staff are creating a new policy with the goal of clearly defining how we manage snow and ice. Having a clear policy allows staff to effectively allocate resources and communicate with the community.

In October 2019, Council gave staff the approval to move ahead with creating a policy based on a new approach to prioritizing snow and ice management services that establishes five priority areas taking into consideration use, increasing pedestrian network elements, and service sustainability.

The prioritization framework begins by prioritizing safety, access to key infrastructure, and business continuity. Prioritizing uses will allow the City to focus limited resources more effectively, and work to limit required overtime to P1 and P2 areas. Limiting the use of overtime will have many positive effects that range from monetary, to safety, to the ability to focus on other crucial maintenance both during the winter, and other seasons.

As the changes to how we deliver this complex service area are significant, the project team is launching a pilot project to allow for public participation in the proposed policy changes. This pilot project will also allow the Operations department to test and refine snow and ice control procedures iteratively, and to determine possible impacts to financial budgeting, personnel resource capacity, and equipment resource capacity prior to final adoption of a new policy. 

How can I provide input?

Community members will have an opportunity to provide input throughout the project period, including: