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County’s public works hopes for mild winter

Posted on November 18, 2013 by Sunny South News

When it comes to sticking to its budget the County of Lethbridge’s public works department could always use a little help from Mother Nature.

“If we have heavy snow we could expend the whole budget,” noted Kevin Viergutz, director of municipal services.

In a recent report to county council, Viergutz reviewed the third quarter cost expenditures for public works.

“Overall we’ve done really well with our budget.”

Weather has a major impact on the public works budget as rain and snow both impact road conditions in the county resulting in an increase in costs. Currently the public works budget is just under $1.6 million and Viergutz said with the weather factor, it is difficult to project what the final expenditures will be for public works.

If there is a major snow event this fall, Viergutz said public works can draw from the snow removal reserve set up to address years when snow has an above average impact on the budget.

“I can’t give you an estimate of where we’ll be at the end of the year.”

Given the good weather into September, he said it made sense to continue with the road gravelling. Coun. John Willms said it’s frustrating to see roads being damaged during raining weather.

“It’s mostly common sense,” he said for heavy traffic to stay off the roads when they are soft and wet.

“We can’t control the weather, we can’t control the road abusers,” said Viergutz.

He also noted with the current road conditions the county can’t simply quit gravelling and working on the roads. For two years in a row the county has been grading from January through April which has an impact on the gravelling budget.

“There’s more demand there than we have money to do,” said Viergutz.

“The budget is weather related,” added Dennis Shigematsu, county manager.

He noted even as gravelling was completed for the summer, three or four inches of rain fell and work began again on the county roads.

“We can’t budget to the penny depending on weather conditions,” said Shigematsu.

“Maybe we should be talking about a gravel road reserve,” noted Viergutz.

In last week’s county council meeting, he provided an additional update to council on the current conditions noting the wet weather through October has impacted the roads.

“We’re talking a real hit on the roads.”

In her report to council, Controller Tracey Anderson also noted weather has a major impact on the budget.

“It’s entirely depending on the weather and what happens this winter.”

Deputy Reeve Henry Doeve said the county has to look at its gravel budget, there are roads in his area that have no gravel.

“We have to look at how we budget.”

“We are not gravelling enough in my opinion,” said Doeve. “We need more gravel.”

He said the majority of the roads in his area are not heavy haul roads, it’s just average traffic.

Viergutz said a number of wet years in a row has impacted the gravel road program. For a number of years dry conditions benefited the county’s road program but now the wet conditions are having a negative impact.

Coun. Morris Zeinstra said the cost of gravel is also having an impact. Residents need to be lobbying the government for the county to get more funding for roads.

“We need to do something, that is the bottom line.”

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