Huntsville implementing new changes to winter road operations
Huntsville Director of Operations and Protective Services, Tarmo Uukkivi, announced changes to the winter road operations, in the September 27, 2023, General meeting.
He said, “Winter operations and quality of control operations has been sliding over the past two years in the trending and complaints systems.” The Town will implement a new data driven method with the help of technology to achieve more predictable results.
Uukkivi added, “The GPS unit we’re looking at has the potential to make it available to the public regarding where the plows are in real time.” Demonstrations will be made available to Council and the public.
According to the report, the 2023-2024 Optimization Plan includes changes to operator schedules, plowing routes, and will implement four new maintenance zones.
Snow operations will be 24 hours, 5 days per week, and in three 8-hour shifts.
They will be broken down into 4 zones, which are Stisted, Huntsville-Chaffey, Stephenson-Port Sydney, and Brunel. And there will be 2 plow routes per zone (8 in total).
The goal will be to make sure the snow is cleared for both morning and afternoon rushes, and to ensure they are open for emergency vehicles, school buses, and for public safety.
The change will result in a need for less plow equipment, with 8 of 13 on the roads at any given time, which according to the report, “reduces the stress on plowing equipment.” This rotation allows for more flexibility to maintain the equipment and ensure there are plows available should one break down.
The report adds that the two main priorities will be snow clearing and removal, “all other work will be scheduled around these two priorities.”
Staff are currently in discussions with the union about the operational changes for Town employees, as a part of the Labour Relation measures.
The financial impact is expected to be positive, given the rotation of trucks allowing for spares, which will result in less wear and tear and increase the longevity of the plows.
Operator salary costs, will increase by $617.60 per week (or $13,587.20 for the winter season), not including benefits and overtime, with overnight shift having a premium ranging from $1.48 to $1.93 more per hour, based on seniority.
The report summarizes, “The anticipated net result is to come in at or slightly below the overall cost of delivering winter maintenance operations over the first year. The bottom line is that this change will be better winter control, drivability, and public safety planned to be at, or below, the previous cost of delivery.”
Deputy Mayor, Dan Armour, inquired about what kind of service will be available on weekends, and whether just the major areas or all areas will be serviced.
Uukkivi said it depends. “If there’s a storm, all hands-on deck is how to best do it, as quickly and safely as possible.”
Deputy Mayor, Dan Armour added, “I’m glad we will have a full crew working around the clock… Hopefully we will see an improvement of the snow on the roads.”
Councillor, Monty Clouthier, expressed enthusiasm about the 24-hour service. “It has the potential to improve our situation… Hopefully you can clear roads the same way [on weekends] as during the week. Our rural road residents need to get out on weekends the same as they need to during the week.”