Any talk of snow during the summer is typically considered blasphemous, though in a place like Pincher Creek the risk of flurries is never zero.
“I’ve seen snow in every month in this place,” Mayor Don Anderberg said with a chuckle during Pincher Creek council’s July 5 committee of the whole meeting.
The topic of the dreaded white stuff stemmed from a request from administration for council members to brainstorm what principles and values should guide the town’s snow-removal policy, which is due for an overhaul.
“We’ve looked at our existing policy and think that this is great time, rather than tweaking it, to just start fresh and set what are the expectations,” said director of operations Alexa Levair.
“That gives us a better idea of what council is looking for when we’re coming back and presenting some policy options moving forward.”
In general, administration was looking for what the town’s priorities should be regarding areas plowed, if snow removal should emphasize residents’ ability to drive versus walk, and what target should be set for costs.
Since snow removal has a multitude of options the town could pursue, community feedback would be key, Levair added.
“Snow removal is one of the most talked-about issues amongst the community and residents. We are recommending that council direct us to draft a public engagement strategy so we can gather some feedback that we can then provide back to council saying this is what we heard back from the community,” she said.
Coun. Sahra Nodge said she wanted to make sure public engagement included Pincher Creek’s schools due to the specific concerns of busing and students walking to school.
“I’m wanting to make sure there’s safe travel before school hours,” she said. “There’s a lot more encouragement for kids walking to school, so it’s important to ensure there are safe crosswalks in the school areas [and] that those crosswalks aren’t being obstructed by snow piles.”
Accessibility was something Coun. Wayne Oliver said the policy should consider, such as clearing windrows in front of driveways or making sure the parking lot at town office is clear. Adaptability, he added, was something the policy needed to consider too.
“We all know in southern Alberta it could look different one year to the next, one month to the next,” Coun. Oliver said.
“Two inches of snow but a 60-kilometre wind from the east is going to leave us with something that is different than two inches of snow with a 60-kilometre wind from the west, so whatever we design in our policy certainly has to have adaptability baked into it,” he said. “Here’s the budget challenge, because we never know year to year what kind of snow we’re going to get.”
Mayor Anderberg suggested creating a municipal reserve for snow removal could offer stability between years with little snowfall and those with a lot. Revisiting enforcement for clearing sidewalks, he continued, was also something he wanted council to consider.
“I get a lot of good feedback about how the town does their work as far as snow removal on the streets,” the mayor said. “The one piece of negative feedback I get a lot is private sidewalks, commercial space — how that snow is handled or not handled — which we used to enforce fairly heavily at one time. It doesn’t seem we enforce heavily now.”
Administration will take the next few weeks to consider council’s discussion and draft a new snow-removal policy, which will be reviewed by council at the next committee of the whole meeting, scheduled for Aug 2.
The next regular council meeting will be held Monday, July 24, 6 p.m. in council chambers.