The City of Saskatoon has three snow management facilities, or storage sites. These include a permanent site at the Civic Operations Center on Valley Road. In order for the sites to remain functional throughout the winter, strategic snow pushing is required at each site to allow residents, private contractors, and city crews to quickly and safely dump snow. This process can be costly depending on the amount of snow Saskatoon experiences each winter. City Council asked City Administration to investigate options to reduce the City's costs related to snow storage sites.
The snow storage sites are currently 100% funded by property tax through the mill rate. However, approximately 75% of snow hauled to the sites is related to private snow hauling while only 25% is related to the City’s snow removal operations. One potential avenue for reducing the City's costs would be to charge private haulers a user fee to use the snow storage sites. By charging a fee based on use, costs would be recovered from those who use it.
Stakeholders such as snow removal companies, haulers, and other affected groups (such as condo associations) were engaged with in 2013 regarding the potential of user fees for the snow storage sites. These engagements included information sessions, one-on-one telephone interviews, a public open house, and an online forum. Feedback provided during those engagements included:
Overall, respondents support improving site operations and access to sites. They like the idea of having permanent storage sites and recognize that improvements are necessary. If a fee is charged, they expect an improvement in service.
Some support the idea of user fees, as long as the fees are used to make the system work better. They expect user fees will lead to improvements in service, potentially saving money for stakeholders. Even still, there was mixed feedback on fees where most people did not support snow storage user fees. However, if they had to choose:
For communication, respondents want clarity on what exactly user fees pay for; they want to ensure the City does not lack understanding of the impact of user fees; and they want the City to clearly communicate how stakeholders will benefit from these fees.
Of note, this engagement occurred prior to the existence of the permanent snow management facility on Valley Road, which began operating in January 2017.