Towns face challenges with snow

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CARSTAIRS/CREMONA/DIDSBURY – The groundhog has spoken and if a certain rodent can be believed, we are in for six more weeks of winter.

Judging from the recent cold snap and dumps of snow, it looks like Balzac Billy was correct.

More snow means more strain on town crews as they work hard (and spend more money) trying to keep roads clear for drivers and pedestrians.

The three local communities are so far keeping up with demands although not without challenges.

Luana Smith, CAO of Cremona, said they have been able to keep up and have had only a few complaints.

“We’re considerably smaller than the other communities,” said Smith. “We have a plow on our one-tonne and a skid-steer and an ATV we do brushing with.”

The village has two public works employees that have been working diligently, said Smith.

“We did call in two contractors to remove the large snow piles that were from the big dump earlier,” she said. “We wanted to get them out of the street because once it melts (it makes a big mess).”

Smith said they went a little over budget with the hiring of the contractors.

“We had to increase the budget,” she said. “Since it has not been passed yet, I increased it to cover the extra costs.”

In Carstairs, CAO Carl McDonnell said they are also doing well with snow removal.

“We were behind on the removal between Christmas and New Year’s but got caught up shortly after that,” McDonnell said. “Our crews have been able to keep up with the main areas in town and have been able to remove the snow from all streets in the town at least once since New Year’s Day.” McDonnell said their crews have been focusing on priority 1 and 2 areas since the last big dumping of snow.

“We are looking at carrying on with the removal from all areas this week,” he said. “Hopefully, Mother Nature helps us with that. We have had complaints but thankfully our workers get more ëthank yous’ and positive feedback than negative comments.”

McDonnell said the snow has come early enough in the year that the town has enough capacity in the budget to cover it.

“We will be reviewing the actual snow removal costs so far this year, prior to finalizing the 2017 budget and may need to adjust accordingly,” he said.

Greg Skotheim, manager of public works and infrastructure for Didsbury, told the Gazette that snow removal has been tough this year for the town.

“Snow removal has been a challenge so far this year with such a variety of weather conditions, which always seems to come over the Christmas holidays and on weekends,” said Skotheim. “We have used more sand and salt than usual also this year.”

Skotheim said the large snow blower the town purchased has made snow removal operations more efficient.

“We have completed our priority routes four times this season and have also done all our residential streets at least once,” he said. “The melt in January helped to reduce the snowpack but it also caused issues with storm drains and rough roads.”

Skotheim said the town has used slightly more than 50 per cent of the snow removal budget, “but we have contingencies in case more funding is required.”

“We have used a significant amount already this year and we will be busy for another week or so with this last snowfall,” he said.

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Craig Lindsay

Craig Lindsay is a reporter with the Mountain View Gazette who joined the newspaper in 2016. He covers news, sports and community events in Didsbury, Carstairs and Cremona. He is a photographer and columnist as well.