Audits show city’s snow and ice policy needs improvement
A round of audit reports are coming out that join previous findings by City Auditor David Wiun’s branch showing ways that both service and value for money can be found within Edmonton’s road maintenance department.
Image courtesy City of Edmonton website
When the Audit Committee meets February 11, they’ll look at a snow and ice audit that was launched after a group of 23 whistle blowers a year ago raised concerns about mismanagement. I’m told that there are a dozen recommendations.
There isn’t really a big smoking gun proposal from the auditor, but there are the usual examples of ways to improve the $54 million department spends to make it run more efficiently. They include suggestions to improve clarity in the roles of each position in the department and how those roles are assigned.
Productivity is a mixed bag
The February 11 meeting will also review how productivity is lacking in some areas. The audit has good news and bad news on roads. “The average cost of filling a pothole has increased suggesting decreased productivity for this service,” a second audit released in November reads. “The cost per lane kilometre for spring sweeping and snow removal have both decreased suggesting increased productivity.”
From my vantage point, with Edmonton adding at least 100 km of roadways each year, many in a booming southwest part of the city, that $54 million budget is likely not large enough. That’s especially when you consider how car dependent we are with nearly 80 per cent of us driving and no chance of that ratio of drivers decreasing much in the coming years because other ways of getting around are not really viable.
How the city spends the road maintenance budget could be reviewed, especially when more than a quarter of the budget is spent on “special” circumstances, like walkways, hills, bridges, and yes bike lanes.
Where I think improvement can happen
Special snow clearing equipment is needed for bike lanes, and seeing them done before roads are touched does look ridiculous. A solution would be to use that equipment for other uses, especially clearing sidewalks near seniors residences to help them safely get around.
There have been plenty of complaints from young families too, who have had a rough time getting around with strollers navigating icy sidewalks. Park trails have been getting negative reviews as well. Ermineskin Park is one recent example.
Another solution that I’ve written about before should help with time management. That’s opening another equipment storage yard in the southwest part of the city, so it’s closer to the fastest growing neighbourhoods in the city like Chappelle, Desrochers and Keswick.
Councillors will hear that 23 per cent of the road maintenance budget is spent on contractors. As the $54 million budget is added to in the next four-year cycle for growing demands, I would expect to see more spent on outside help to meet those needs.