Thompson councillors discussed the city’s snow-clearing policy for 25 minutes at their Jan. 16 committee of the whole meeting, tasking administration with investigating the feasibility and expense of hypothetical changes to help inform their decisions on any revisions.
Among the items council would like to see examined to determine whether they are possible or make economic sense are simultaneous snow clearing and hauling, scheduling clearing of major thoroughfares to overnight hours when possible and changes to ensure lowest priority streets get cleared more frequently.
Coun. Duncan Wong said he’d like to see Princeton Drive and Westwood Drive removed from the list of priority one streets because they are primarily residential. He also wants to know if the other top priority streets like Thompson Drive and Cree Road can be cleared overnight to avoid traffic congestion, improve safety and maximize efficiency.
“I would strongly suggest those kind of areas should be done during the night from 10 [p.m.] to 6 [a.m.] so we have no other traffic, like minimum traffic. It’s more efficient.”
Councillors Earl Colbourne and Sandra Oberdorfer questioned whether it would be possible to clear and haul snow at the same time or in quick succession, rather than clearing an area and leaving snow piled up then coming back to haul it away days later.
Public works director Neil MacLaine said that’s difficult due to staffing and that it isn’t usually until they start clearing priority three streets that they can begin removing snow from previously cleared areas. City manager Anthony McInnis said, if council wishes, the city could cost out that scenario and consider changes like bringing in casual staff to assist with and speed up snow clearing and removal.
With more snow often coming before all the snow from a previous snowfall is removed, priority three streets, which are mainly residential, often go weeks between clearings, said Colbourne.
“These streets get forgotten,” he said, recalling a winter while he was operating the Northern Inn when Public Lane seemed to never get cleared. “The street was higher than the sidewalk because we weren't in the right priority.”
Other concerns councillors said they might like to see addressed in a revised policy include having less snow piled at street corners for safety purposes and having streets like Campbell Drive and the portion of Weir Road in front of La Voie du Nord school added to the list of priority two streets.
Mayor Colleen Smook asked if there were still the same number of operators and pieces of equipment that there were back in 2020 when the policy was last revised, while Wong said it would be helpful if council could sit down with employees to gain a better understanding of practical concerns that policy changes could affect.
“We should have a private meeting with the operators and have that input because none of us sitting here except myself can move snow,” Wong said. “I like to have those conversations with operators rather than just make a policy, probably something that is not practical.
According to Environment Canada, there were 50 centimetres of snow on the ground in Thompson as of Jan. 18, about the same as a year ago but considerably less than the 79 cm in 2021, which was a record high for that date.