Sunday, April 21, 2024

Councillor to Staff on Winter Road Maintenance: Who do I Call?

Stephen Vance, Staff

2016snow

At least one member of council has been receiving phone calls from residents to complain about the state of their roads now that the winter snow has finally arrived, and he wanted to know from municipal staff how he should handle such phone calls.

At the January 18 council meeting, Councillor Tony Bell asked municipal Treasurer Darcy Chapman who councillors should call for information about roads, and what councillors should tell residents who contact them to complain that their road hasn’t been plowed.

Chapman was recently handed the reins of Meaford’s roads department after the termination of the Director of Operations position in September. Councillor Bell asked if he should be phoning Chapman at home as he would have done with the former Director of Operations.

I would suggest that the typical protocol would be to call and leave a message at my extension, and I will promptly return your call Monday to Friday. You can also send an email to myself, or any member of the public can send an email to roadsinquiry@meaford.ca and we are striving to meet a 48-hour turnaround (response time),” Chapman advised.

Chapman asked the councillors not to contact roads department staff directly as such calls could interrupt sleep periods for those staff members.

In the past I know that numbers were made available for the public so they could call someone. We’ve discontinued that because it’s not fair to our staff who are supposed to be getting up at 2:00 am to go out on patrol, to have somebody call them at 10:00 at night irate because their road hasn’t been plowed,” sad Chapman.

Chapman told council that emergency services such as police and the fire department have emergency contact numbers for key municipal staff should they need them.

Unsatisfied with the answer from the treasurer, Councillor Bell pressed Chapman on who should be contacted.

Who do I call? Who can I call?” asked Bell.

I would suggest for the public that anybody can call the municipal office and leave a message after hours. Anybody can send an email no matter what time of day it is. The transportation services staff strive to meet the minimum maintenance standards, those of us in administration and other departments strive to meet our customer service standards during regular business hours. Not twenty-four-seven, 365 days per year so I would caution anybody that if they send an email or if they make a phone call they won’t get an immediate response. If it is an emergency situation a resident should be calling 911,” advised Chapman.

I think we have a gap,” countered Bell. “It’s my personal opinion, but I think as a councillor, when I get called I think I should have an explanation.”

Meaford CAO Denyse Morrissey promised to have an education session for councillors developed to assist councillors in dealing with winter road maintenance complaints from ratepayers.

Chapman reminded Bell that council’s job is to set policy, and it is staff’s job to execute policy and to ensure that minimum standards are met.

At their December 14 meeting Chapman told council that the municipality has traditionally exceeded minimum maintenance standards in previous winter seasons, and he would like to operate winter road maintenance in the municipality closer to the minimum standards for up to 30-day periods to see what the impact would be.

Chapman told council that if Meaford can move their winter road management closer to established minimum maintenance standards, a significant portion of the more than $240,000 spent on salt and sand for the roads could be reduced, and overtime – which amounts to some 3,600 hours per winter – could be slashed, if not eliminated altogether. Chapman noted 3,600 hours is nearly equivalent to the cost of two full time positions.

In his report to council, Chapman said that Transportation Services will be undertaking some “30-Day Challenges”, where ideas will be tested for a period of up to 30 days.

Even if the idea being tested is working very well, it will not go past the 30-day mark. Upon completion of the test, staff will analyze the process/project to determine potential long-term success and the positive impacts it could have by way of effectiveness, efficiency, or increased customer service. Understanding that innovation with new ideas will still require the Municipality to at least meet the Minimum Maintenance Standards as required under Ontario Regulation 239/02, the following practices (at a minimum) will be embarked upon between January 1 and April 30, 2016,” noted Chapman.

Some of the experiments being carried out by the municipality include:

  • modified salt use

  • consolidation of existing plow routes

  • a modified weekend work schedule using additional winter seasonal operators to create second shift to reduce overtime

  • later roll-out of winter control staff on weekends – from 3:30am to 5am start

  • development of Primary routes and Secondary routes

Throughout the experimentation period, the Municipality will continue to meet mandatory Minimum Maintenance Standards, based on road classifications.

More information on winter road experimentation, including a new interactive map, has been made available on our website at www.meaford.ca/winterroads. Here you can search the class of all roads within the Municipality, and view the response times that can be expected.

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