News Local

City already spending $5M on winter control

Bob Bruton

By Bob Bruton, Barrie Examiner

CHERYL BROWNE,Barrie Examiner

CHERYL BROWNE,Barrie Examiner

As Barrie gets socked by yet another snow storm this winter, and drivers struggle along city streets, what would it take to clear all the roads faster and better?

Coun. Doug Shipley posed this question during Monday night's meeting, following a staff presentation of the 2017 budget.

“We're getting a lot of calls and e-mails about snow removal, and now's the time to talk about it,” he said.

“What would it take to give a little bit more money, or is it just an abnormal year, when the snow ... no matter what amount of money, because it's been snowing so much at different times of the day ... we're not going to be able to take care of it.

“If we gave some more resources to you and probably cut somewhere else ... what could we do to help?”

Shipley's question was posed to Dave Friary, Barrie's director of roads, parks and fleet – who oversees winter control in the city.

“This is a little bit of an anomaly,” he said of this winter. “Last year, the entire season, 2015-2016, residential (street) plows were out 15 times.

“This year, in the last three or four weeks, we've already been out 17 times.”

Barrie's winter control budget is approximately $5 million, and it's based on a five-year average.

Friary said to provide an extra level of service to the city's residential streets, or at the same level as arterial roads, would likely cost another $900,000 to $1.5 million, depending on if it was done in-house or contracted out.

“It is quite expensive,” he said. “I can assure you that this year we've met municipal minimum maintenance standards for highways (set by the province), each and every time we've been out.”

Shipley left the matter by asking for more detailed winter control information that can be used during this year's budget talks, which set not only service levels but property taxes.

At this point, Barrie homeowners are facing a 3.76% tax increase.

That would hike taxes by $145 to $3,992 for the average city home assessed at $302,000 in 2017. Last year property taxes on that home were $3,847.

Winter control is part of the annual city operating budget.

The city has developed carefully planned levels of winter road service to combat the diverse weather conditions seen every winter.

A combination of city-owned trucks and contracted units provide snow plowing services to Barrie roads through a priority and secondary route system.

It assigns priority to all major roads with the highest traffic in Barrie. To ensure the safety of drivers and pedestrians, these major routes are serviced on a 24/7 basis when necessary.

Secondary routes - all residential streets in the city - are plowed regularly, but less often than priority routes.

Eight contract road plows maintain priority routes 24/7, while city-owned units are responsible for secondary routes.

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