Council questions whether snow-clearing budget is ‘too tight’

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Under the city’s seven-day snow-clearing plan, major roads get cleared first, and the goal is to complete that work in 48 hours. Residential roads come after, but clearing them is no small task — they make up more than 9,000 lane kilometres of the total 16,342 lane kilometres the city has to plow.

The annual snow- and ice-clearing budget in Calgary is about $40 million. Many other cities across Canada spend much more than that, but they also contend with different geography and weather, making direct comparisons difficult.

But Coun. Druh Farrell said Tuesday’s conversation is yet another repeat of a debate she’s heard for years.

“We are reluctant to pay what it takes to clear the snow,” she said.

Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra said it might be time to talk about whether Calgary spends enough on clearing sidewalks and roads in the winter.

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“I think Calgarians are up for a conversation right now about potentially paying more for a higher level of service when it comes to snow and ice control,” he said.

Sutherland said he also thinks the budget may be “too tight.”

“If we want an expectation of better service, then there are consequences to that.”

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said council’s decision means opening the door to “an honest conversation about what’s not working for people” and looking at possibilities for new technology to help deal with major snow events.

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