Edmonton council committee recommends $4.7M increase to snow clearing budget


They promised a “noticeable improvement” to snow and ice control within the first year of planned service changes, with roads and pathways being cleared more quickly and residential streets kept in better condition

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City councilors gave an initial green light Tuesday to increased funding to ensure snow-clearing service improves as soon as temperatures drop this winter.

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Council’s community and public services committee agreed Tuesday to pull $4.7 million from reserve funds to bolster snow and ice control for the remainder of 2022, but the one-time spending still needs to be approved in another vote by council before it’s official.

The decision comes ahead of a bigger debate looming over the city’s four-year budget deliberations in December. Council will be eyeing bigger budget increases to avoid repeating the city-wide frustration over road and sidewalk conditions last winter.

City officials said approving some extra money now will help bolster enforcement resources as soon as snow starts to pile up, instead of waiting until after budget talks.

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They promised a “noticeable improvement” to snow and ice control within the first year of planned service changes, with roads and pathways being cleared more quickly and residential streets kept in better condition.

Staff floated a few options for the one-time spending, including a proposal to take $9.5 million from the financial stability reserve. But pulling that much money out would leave the reserve just barely above its legislated minimum balance, limiting council’s ability to tap it for emergencies.

Coun. Tim Cartmell said spending $4.7 million instead strikes a balance between improving service and being cautious about depleting the rainy-day fund.

“It’s a bit of a slower roll, but it is a roll,” he said.

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Cartmell added that he anticipates council will take further budget action this year. He said there’s now recognition that “we do have to do more than we’ve been doing, that essentially this budget has been frozen for many years while our city has grown around us.”

CUPE Local 30 president Eric Lewis urged the committee to hire more full-time staff, saying closing the gap with temporary labor is contributing to consistency issues.

“Last year, our members were told they could come in whenever they wanted for overtime because they were so short-staffed,” he said.

“This creates an issue because there is lots of money being spent on overtime and members work themselves ragged and have no chance to recharge.”

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