Jeff Heuchert email@example.com
It's been one heck of a winter so far for Infrastructure and Development Services director Ed Dujlovic, whose department is responsible for ensuring Stratford's roads and sidewalks are kept clear and safe.
During what at times has felt like a never-ending two months, Southern Ontario has been hit with some of its coldest temperatures in years and significant amounts of snowfall (another 15-20 centimetres could be on its way this weekend), taxing the city's public works budget and workers who have been running shifts 24/7 to try to keep up with Mother Nature's worst.
Dujlovic notes public works crews put in 265 hours of overtime throughout all of January last year. As of Jan. 20 this year, they had already worked 460 overtime hours.
"It's been a while since we've had a winter like this," Dujlovic says, "and it has been a challenge for us (dealing) with all of the snow."
After a major dumping, Dujlovic says the first priority is clearing the main arteries, bus routes, and school zones as best as possible, and laying sand or salt before moving into residential neighbourhoods. The same applies for sidewalks. Depending on the severity of a storm, the city can also call in any number of its plow operators or truck drivers on contract to help haul away snow.
While still waiting on some numbers before knowing the full damage to this month's snow removal budget, Dujlovic is willing to go on a limb and predict the city will need to dip into its reserves to cover the additional costs that will be incurred before the winter is over.
Snow that's picked up by trucks is dumped on municipal property near the storm water pond off Romeo Street South. Dujlovic says special attention is paid to areas where the sidewalk is close to the road and there is limited space for snow to build up, like at Erie and Ontario streets.
Ideally, this will be done before another major snowstorm so the plows have somewhere to put the snow.
"It really does become a challenge when we have consecutive snowstorms," Dujlovic says, noting wet, heavy snow can also be problematic as it forces city workers to use much slower snowblowers on the sidewalks instead of a small plow.
"When you have to use blowers it slows down the operation. You go from a day or two to four to five days to get all the sidewalks cleared off," he adds.
It's not only the snow residents and city workers have had to contend with, of course. As of Friday morning, Dujlovic counts six water main breaks and many calls about frozen pipes that can be attributed to the bitterly cold temperatures. Water main breaks are common in the winter and occur when frost penetrates into the ground, putting extra stress on the pipes. Dropping water temperatures can also cause pipes to become more brittle.
To prevent the pipes to your home from freezing, the city recommends turning on one or two faucets to allow a continuous flow of water in the pipes. The city went as far as to send out reminders this year to residents in neighbourhoods where frozen pipes have been a problem in the past. Dujlovic says those residents will receive a break on their water bill and be charged a monthly average.