Friday, July 12, 2024

Winter Control Initiatives Will Mean Big Savings

Stephen Vance, Staff

snowdowntown270The experiments undertaken by the municipality this past winter regarding winter road control appear to have paid off. According to Meaford treasurer Darcy Chapman, the municipality can expect savings of more than $200,000 per year beginning in 2017.

Most of the experimentation undertaken were done in an effort to understand potential future financial benefits. Staff originally defined that the tests taken to reduce overall salt would result in a lower Sand/Salt budget within the Winter Control area of Transportation Services of $12,000, which was reflected in the 2016 budget. The future opportunities to reduce the overall budget could exceed $200,000 as early as 2017 if certain changes are implemented through the Service Delivery Review process,” advised Chapman in his report to Council.

On April 27, 2015, Council was presented with the Operations Review of Winter Maintenance, Roadway Maintenance and Fleet Management final report by DFA Infrastructure International Inc. That report highlighted 17 recommendations in the areas of Outsourcing, Policies & Practices, Effective & Efficient Service Delivery, and Recruitment. It also outlined 12 key challenges including, ageing infrastructure and fleet, continuous improvement, overtime, salt use and patrol yard silos.

“Between January 1 and April 15, 2016, Transportation Services embarked on implementing innovative approaches using ’30-Day Challenges’, whereby ideas were tested for a period not to exceed 30 days. Even if the idea being tested worked very well, it was stopped at the 30 day mark. Upon completion of the test, staff analyzed 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,” noted Chapman.

The 30-day experiments included using a specially treated salt that activates more quickly and requires less volume, re-thinking salting techniques, consolidating existing plow routes, and modified work schedules to reduce overtime.

“The 30-day experiments allowed staff to develop programs that could be retooled, reworked or simply aborted if unsuccessful. This allowed great flexibility in understanding potential long term implications. The experiments in service changes, efficiencies, or effectiveness (doing more with less) have allowed staff to understand positive changes which can be incorporated into winter control standard operating procedures starting in November 2016 for the 2016-2017 season. Experimenting with varying levels of service from the current expected levels has provided invaluable lessons and data which will be utilized during the upcoming Service Delivery Review,” said Chapman in his report to council.

Chapman said that staff realized that salt was being used on roads which did not require salting based on traffic counts and established best practices.

“Over time (past decade plus) the municipality was relying more and more on salt applications, especially within certain rural areas and on some local low traffic urban roads. During testing, staff completely eliminated salt use on rural roads,” noted Chapman, adding that on urban roads, “instead of utilizing 100% salt the sand loads were ‘sweetened’ by adding additional salt mixed with the sand. This ensured that hills and curves received an adequate amount of sand for traction but also included extra salt to inhibit the adhesion of ice to the road. With the exception of some negative public comments surrounding how the extra sand use has created a ‘dirty look’ there were no safety concerns raised. From an operational standpoint, the extra sand use does create some additional clean up in the spring through street sweeping and catch basin cleaning, however the cost benefit between salt ($82.36/tonne) and sand ($11.47/tonne) far outweighs the additional wage allocations for sand removal during spring clean-up.”

In addition to the financial savings found through experimentation, Chapman said revised salting procedures will have a positive environmental effect.

“Annual salt use through direct application or mixed with sand was in excess of 3,000 tonnes during the past three winter control seasons (2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15). Reducing the municipality’s salt use by 60% would limit over 2,000 tonnes of salt potentially running off into storm water catch basins, ditches, streams and rivers and eventually into Georgian Bay,” advised Chapman.

Chapman said that while the majority of public input over the past winter season was critical, those complaints were valuable to municipal staff in identifying areas for improvement, and he expressed appreciation to the community for providing feedback.

“The overall feedback was invaluable as a means to understand potential service level concerns as various methods were tested. The municipality received 79 written submissions through email and the website via the comment form. As well, approximately 120 phone calls were logged with virtually all relating to concerns versus positive feedback. Transportation Services staff have suggested that this volume is probably about 20%-25% more than previous winter seasons,” said Chapman in his report.

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