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City of Edmonton saves $5 million due to scant snow-and-ice removal work on roads

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Let it snow, let it snow, let it ... whoa, not so fast!

While the city's snow-and-ice road maintenance crews welcomed a chance to deal with work for which they trained Monday following a slight snowfall overnight, politicians and officials appreciate the unseasonably warm weather in helping keep costs down.

The relatively high temperatures — the city says November was the warmest and driest on record — has led to the reassignment of infrastructure staff who would usually be dealing with white, frozen stuff on roads to other duties.

They include maintenance work such as filling potholes — crews repaired more than 15,000 of them last week, adding to the 620,000-plus fixed so far this year — picking up 3,000 bags of litter, cleaning up 60,000 kilograms of waste from vacant homeless camp, repairing sidewalks and shared-use paths, and adding mulch to shrub buds.

City snow-and-ice removal work usually includes some contracted services, which have yet to be called upon this season, leading to savings.

Mark Beare, the director of the city's infrastructure operations, said if the warm weather persists and the need for contracted services continues to be lower, any money saved would be returned to the financial stabilization reserve, which covers overages from responding to extreme weather conditions.

"In short, the city does save money when it doesn't snow," Beare told CTV News Edmonton on Monday, adding that about $4 million has been saved on contracted snow plows and $1 million on fuel, maintenance and overtime pay so far this winter season. "For things mostly like contracts, we do lean on contracts for some of our roadways and active pathways work as well as things like budgeted overtime, fuel, materials — those are some things where the city is going to see some savings. The beauty of having internal staff, to redeploy them to other work, is that they've been able to stay busy with other priority and essential work."

Coun. Andrew Knack, who sits on the city's community and public services committee, said savings from not having to send crews out — "particularly where we benefit is the contractor side of things" — means that the projected city deficit, which was projected at $74 million in September, should be even lower.

"We even heard throughout budget deliberations that we're already looking at a lower-than-projected deficit back in June," Knack told reporters on Monday.

"We were originally thinking it was going to be about $70 million. They were suggesting now it's closer to $53-55 million. The more this continues, the more likely we can bring that $53-55 million deficit down even further. The more we do that, the less we have to tap into essentially our rainy day fund — our financial stabilization reserve — which is ideal because we have a minimum balance required."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson 

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