BANFF – The Town of Banff is trying to make it a little easier to get around in winter.
The municipality will increase snow and ice maintenance on 47 para ramps at key intersections in town, which offer a gentle slope as pedestrians, people in wheelchairs, parents with strollers and others using mobility aids try to safely cross roads.
“This will help improve accessibility as well as safety and consistency of navigating the downtown,” said Mayor Corrie DiManno during a council meeting on Monday (Sept. 11).
Increased maintenance of the para ramps comes with an $80,000 price tag for a new truck and $107,000 for operating costs including additional staffing to get the increased workload done.
“This option could be implemented in January 2024 dependent on equipment selection and availability, and staff recruitment,” said Agustina Rocha-Jaje, the manager of municipal parks for the Town of Banff.
Other options to clear snow and ice from the main pedestrian thoroughfares throughout the townsite and to include most walking routes within the town limit came with a heftier price tag – in the hundreds of thousands of dollars – and did not get council support.
Coun. Grant Canning was done spending money on additional snow and ice clearing in winter, noting the Town’s current winter clearing of 16 kilometres of sidewalks, trails and para ramps was more than enough.
“This becomes such a philosophical issue on what is the appropriate level of snow removal in the community on pedestrian sidewalks. It never ends,” he said.
“We do forget sometimes we are a mountain town, we get snow eight months of the year on the ground, if not more, and sometimes it does make it challenging to get around in this community, but I am comfortable with where we are currently.”
If the municipality was to take over responsibility of snow and ice removal, Rocha-Jaje said it would not necessarily result in faster or better snow maintenance.
As the scope of municipal snow management increases, she said the length of time to clear sidewalks may not lead to better service, but in the first few days following a snowfall may decrease.
“From experience, based on approved service levels, staff may not service all the current routes prior to pedestrian traffic compacting the fallen snow,” she said.
“That translates into additional manual labour to remove the compacted snow and/or ice created and may take a few days to execute.”
In addition, Rocha-Jaje said freezing rain events and snowfall, combined with warm temperatures followed by frigid temperatures, have become more frequent in recent years.
“When these events occur, it takes Municipal Parks about two weeks to clear all ice build-up within our current service routes,” she said.
While DiManno has long supported increased snow and ice clearing as a way to encourage more people to get out of their vehicles, she said she is OK taking a slower approach at this time.
“I strongly believe as a community we can do better when it comes to snow clearing our sidewalks, and to me it’s a major piece of the puzzle when it comes to getting folks actively commuting in winter,” said the mayor.
“We can strive for the big vision, but I want to do it at a rate that is manageable for the organization.”
Coun. Ted Christensen wanted the discussion deferred until council’s review of municipal services and budget deliberations which get underway in December.
“We have an unknown percentage tax increase for our upcoming budget….that could be over 10 per cent,” he said, noting there’s a need to be fiscally prudent.