Up until Feb. 3 of this year

Up until Feb. 3 of this year

City, school board digging out from snow removal bills

The Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows school district is still tallying up the costs of clearing roads, and keeping 34 schools open.

People have dug out and moved on after the heavy snow dumped on to Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows earlier this month.

But it’s a different story for Maple Ridge and the school district, the latter of which is still tallying up the costs of clearing hundreds kilometres of roads, and keeping 34 schools open.

Up until Feb. 3 of this year, the City of Maple Ridge had spent at least $110,000 on plowing snow.

Then the big snowfall hit on the weekend of Feb. 4-5, when about 20 centimetres fell, causing crews to ramp up their snow response.

Since that weekend, the city has spent another $100,000 on salt and sand and about another $75,000 in labour and equipment costs.

Add it all up and the final flurry of figures in Maple Ridge comes to $285,000, well over the $210,000 budgeted each year for snow removal.

City director of engineering operations James Storey noted the last snowy year was in 2007. So the big bill for this year will be covered by the savings that have piled up in the snow removal account every year.

“Hopefully, we won’t get another [snowy] one next year.”

Storey said crews now are all getting back to normal after working round the clock during the storm.

A big rainfall didn’t materialize at the start of the week. That allowed city crews to start planning to sweep up the sand off the road and gutters. That’s important because, left untouched, the sand will clog catch basins.

In Pitt Meadows, the city spent $115,000 on snow removal in the months of January and February, said Forrest Smith, engineering and operations manager.

The city’s total snow removal budget for each year is $130,000, which means the city has $15,000 remaining to clear snow from now until Dec. 31.

However, unused amounts from previous years are available for further snow removal costs.

Smith said Feb. 4 brought the largest snowfall, with between 20 and 30 centimeters falling on to Pitt Meadows.

In December and January, the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district had already spent $138,219 on snow plowing, more than $50,000 over budget.

School district maintenance director Rick DeLorme said February’s costs will add to those costs, although he doesn’t expect the total  to exceed $200,000. The school board functions on a June-to-July fiscal period.

The school district had five ground crews and three plows working to remove snow from parking lots. Those also cleared sidewalks in front of 34 schools and ensured there was at least one clear path leading to each one. Sometimes that was done using bobcats, sometimes by shovel.

The district also hires three contractors and had to pay for sand and salt.

Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows schools were closed only two days last week, while Mission and Chilliwacks schools were closed all week.

Delorm said the decision whether to open schools is made early each morning.

“I was out at 2:30 a.m. in the morning, touring schools to see what condition they were in.”

The decision depends on the condition of roads and sidewalks and whether parents can actually get near a school to drop off their kids without their vehicle getting stuck.

“I have been here 10 years and I think this is about the worst year.”

“We were on top of it pretty good.”

Delorme said they try to keep schools open if possible, otherwise parents are scrambling to find daycare while they go to work. “There’s a lot of people counting on the schools being open that day.”

Environment Canada expected heavy rain to continue Thursday with up to 100 millimetres of rain expected by Thursday near the mountains.