Just two months into 2014, the city’s street sanding budget is nearly used up and crews have managed to grind down a quarter of the overall snow removal budget for the year.
The bitterly cold temperatures, major snowfalls and extremely windy conditions have caused Brandon’s streets to be particularly slick this winter, and at times, a challenge for the city to tackle.
"It seems that we just got caught up and then we got a couple dumps," said Ian Broome, director of public works. "We finished the school areas. Other visibility issue areas (such as medians), we’re trying to work away at."
So far $40,000 has been spent on sanding, which includes parts and materials like grader blades.
"We’ve used probably three-quarters of our sanding material that we have budgeted for," Broome said. "So we’re hoping that spring hurries up … and we have a good fall next year because we are limited on our resources. I would have to move stuff around our budget to make things work."
The entire snow removal budget for 2014 is $787,135, plus an estimated $300,000 for salaries and overtime.
Broome said they currently are hovering around the $200,000 mark, a conservative estimate.
Twenty-five per cent may not seem like a big dent, however these funds have to last through not only March and April, but the beginning of the next winter season as well.
"We still have next fall, which could be as early as Halloween, that could be all of November, could be December, we’re not out of the woods yet," Broome said.
Slick roads with icy ruts and ridges have been a common sight in Brandon this winter, especially in residential areas. City crews plow Priority One streets first, which consist of arterial and collector streets, city bus routes and some selected residential streets.
"They get first dibs, we get there first and then cutting residentials is lower down," Broome said.
Priority Two roads are all remaining streets and roads that are the responsibility of the city. Priority Three includes back lanes.
The province is responsible for 18th Street, Victoria Avenue, First Street, Richmond Avenue, the Trans-Canada Highway, Grand Valley Road and Veterans Way.
Even though it may not have seemed like it, more sand has been put down in Brandon this year in an effort to curb the slippery slopes, according to Broome.
"With the winds we’ve been experiencing, I hate using excuses, but … we apply the sand, and either the wind blows it off or it’s so cold it just shines it up," he said.
The brutal winter temperatures can impact snow removal equipment as well.
"The equipment has a little more fatigue, it’ll break easier, but they’ve been doing well," Broome said.
Every city street will be plowed at least once, and Broome said most of them should have been done by now.
"There shouldn’t be too many left," he said.
Once all streets are plowed, the city will then evaluate different areas and may go back and plow again, depending on the ruts and if there are any safety concerns.
The city is not responsible for private streets, such as those in condo developments. That is up to the building owner or condo association.
"A lot of people confuse private streets with our streets, and we get lambasted why we’re not doing them, but it’s not our responsibility," he said.