By Kevin Werner, News Staff
You finally shoveled the last of the snow that had caked your driveway after yet another snow storm.
But a few hours later, the snow plow has thrown up a barrier of ice, snow and slush at the end of the driveway as it passed, making it almost impossible to drive your vehicle onto the road.
And now you have to take another hour or so to shovel the snow away.
It’s been that kind of year, say councillors.
“It’s been brutal,” said Mountain councillor Scott Duvall. “People clear their driveways and sidewalks, and then we scrape the snow on top of them again.”
Duvall, along with the other Mountain councillors is getting complaints from residents, particularly seniors, who have to shovel the snow once the plows drive past.
“No way are seniors going to shovel that,” said Duvall. “It will give them a heart attack. How can we help the public?”
He said sometimes seniors or people with health issues just give up and stay in their homes without shoveling out the snow.
Mountain councillor Terry Whitehead agreed this past weekend saw “huge ice chunks” dumped at the end of drive ways. Once the plow threw up the slushy snow, during the night it froze, creating an ice barrier at the end of driveways.
“I had to use a chipper,” said Whitehead. “I don’t blame the (snow plow operators). The weather has been our worst enemy. But we are leaving people in dire need.”
Gerry Davis, general manager of public works, said city staff has provided some assistance to homeowners in an emergency.
But he said the city can’t do it all the time, nor can it help everyone out.
“All of our resources are out there,” he said. “We don’t have a program to address (the issue). It is problematic.”
Over all, though, councillors have praised the city’s snow plow operators and the city’s winter control program for their efficient service during some grueling days and nights.
Still, the extreme winter season is taking its toll on the city’s winter control budget. Davis said snow plow operators have been asked to remove the snow down to the pavement along residential streets because of the city’s dwindling amount of salt. He said the city will also be using sand and brine in place of the salt.
The city did order an extra 60,000 tonnes to 90,000 tonnes of salt for the season, spending about $5.4 million, but it is nearing the end. The winter season kicked in early when the city was put into overdrive with the Dec. 22 ice storm that lashed portions of the Mountain, Ancaster, and Flamborough. Since the storm, snow plow operators have barely had time to catch their breaths.
Davis acknowledged the city overshot its 2013 winter control budget by $4 million due to the December storms. The budget had been about $21.5 million. For 2014 the winter control budget had been boosted to $22 million with the addition of $500,000.
The winter control budget is calculated using a rolling three-year average. Over the last four or five years Hamilton has been lucky to escape the season with maybe one or two severe snow storms.
As the season enters February, it’s still too early to say if this year’s winter control budget will also exceed its budget. It also depends on how the weather will be in November and December.
“It’s been more than average,” Davis said of January. “We have to get to December (2014)” to see if there will be a deficit.
The city has been able to build up a $7 million reserve fund in the winter control budget after a few years of relatively mild winters so staff will be able to absorb any extra costs incurred.