A teaser of warm weather brought hope to the end of snow but, like clockwork, frigid temperatures have restocked Vanderhoof snowbanks.
On average, 270 people are injured and two killed in 1,300 crashes every February in the North Central region. The importance of snow clearance is extremely high during this time, Gerry Thiessen said, mayor of Vanderhoof.
“I’m hearing many communities are having severe problems with getting their roads dealt with and I’ve seen everything here being dealt with within a 24 hour period,” mayor Thiessen said. “Considering we were through the first part of winter with brown grass a week or two before Christmas, and all of a sudden we have large dumps of snow, they’re doing great.”
Vanderhoof public works employees are solely responsible for clearing away snow from in-town roads. They have a crew of eight, including director of operations Paul Carver who works in-office and makes all vital decisions.
During a typical snow removal operation, public works could have anywhere up to six pieces of machinery out at once since there is always a designated person for garbage removal. When they haul the snow away, it’s typically done at night when traffic is a non issue.
When the snow initially starts to fall, Mr. Carver contacts works foreman Randy Bailey, who started his new role Jan. 1, and they decide when to get the guys out at the appropriate time and equipment needed based on conditions. “Our guys are dedicated. They normally recognize by looking out the window if they should come in early. They truly care about the safety of our community,” Mr. Carver said.
There are three levels of importance when it comes to clearing the roads. Priority 1 roads such as Stewart St., Hospital Rd, Nechako Ave., Burrard Street and Fourth Street are to name a few.
“What’s also important to us are the roads with hills that could pose safety concerns,” said Mr. Carver. “Also school zones to make sure parents and students are safe.”
Then priority 2 and 3 roads are cleared – mostly back roads and residential side roads – unless the forecast predicts continued snowfall for a long period of time.
“We could do it all at once or stagger things to make sure we have full coverage throughout [the entire snowfall],” said Mr. Carver.
“If it snows for two days we have a bigger problem and will have to strategize to use equipment and man power efficiently. We cannot over work our employees, there are limits.”
Public works has no designated night shift. They simply bring people in as needed and adjust shifts accordingly. “Overtime doesn’t happen often, we try and adjust shifts to accommodate the night shifts so people can get proper rest,” Mr. Carver said.
The District has moved Paul Carver into the public works building near the Fire Hall to be closer to his employees, a move he’s happy to make.
“We’re always trying to find ways where communication can be more direct and immediate between decision makers and people working on the ground,” mayor Thiessen said. “I think it will be a good positive move and I’m glad staff sensed that this was the right decision to make. But nothing is forever and things change all the time.”
The public works stock of salt and sand is currently still high. They are going through quite a bit but we’ll never run out because we’re always bringing in new supplies, Mr. Carver said.
Last winter they went through tons of winter sand but never ran out. Vanderhoof’s snow removal budget for 2014 was $350,000, while public works only spent $310,122. This years’ budget has not yet been approved but will likely look similar to last year’s.