The City of Castlegar has fewer snow removal employees this year. File photo

The City of Castlegar has fewer snow removal employees this year. File photo

Staffing shortages slowing down Castlegar snow plowing efforts

Mayor says staff doesn’t deserve some of the treatment they have received from the public

Reduced staffing levels are having an impact on the City of Castlegar’s ability to keep up with snow plowing this winter.

The city’s road crew is down to 73 per cent of usual levels.

Chris Hallam, the city’s director of municipal services, told city council that only nine of 11 positions on the road crew are currently filled, primarily due to a long-term medical leave and a worker accommodation situation.

The other vacancies are in the casual workers pool where only two of four positions were filled this winter.

Hallam said they had a hard time finding qualified casual labourers that were willing to work the shift work that the city needed.

“We are struggling to deliver some essential services when everybody is at work,” said Hallam. “When you take in sick leaves, vacation time, unexpected projects … we are often unable to deliver all of our core services at expected service levels.”

He also said that having to call on employees to work over time is going to have an impact down the road. Employees often take over time as banked time which will then reduce available man hours over the course of a year.

City roads crews are responsible for snow removal on the city’s streets, alleys and parking lots using mostly loaders and plow trucks.

City parks crews are primarily responsible for maintaining sidewalks and pathways using trackless machines, snowblowers and shovels, but the can be called on to supplement the roads crews. Parks staffing is currently at 100 per cent with all five positions filled.

It is important to note that the roads and parks crews have responsibilities other than snow removal such as maintenance, repairs and cemetery internments. When these responsibilities pop up at the same time as a snow event, the situation gets more complicated.

Weekend snow events are also more difficult to deal with.

Hallam said that the city has good coverage that includes nights on weekdays, but there are no weekend shifts. The city has to call in over time, stand by and casual workers for weekend snow plowing.

Equipment failures can also cause delays in snow removal and Hallam says the primary reason for that is the age of the city’s fleet.

The city has eight pieces of critical equipment — three loaders, three plow trucks/sanders and two trackless machines. This is supplemented with some smaller pieces of equipment as needed.

Hallam says time and money needs to be invested in the fleet going forward.

Mayor Maria McFaddin said city staff don’t deserve some of the treatment they have been getting over snow plowing.

She said the city welcomes complaints, frustrations and concerns from residents, but she didn’t appreciate the wat some of those complaints were delivered.

“The majority of people have done that in an appropriate manner with kindness,” said McFaddin.

“But to those of you who have not, our city staff does not deserve to be treated the way some of you have responded. My expectation is that, Castlegar, you are better than that.”

“Those of you who think they’re not human beings and would like to treat them like that, that’s not acceptable.”

McFaddin said people are trying to do the best they can and apologised to city staff for the unpleasant messages they received and the language contained in those messages.

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Snow clearing priorities

The city has a goal of plowing priority-one and priority-two routes within 12 hours after a storm, depending on snowfall rates and duration.

Priority-one routes include Columbia Avenue and Arrow Lakes Drive from 18th Street to the industrial plants.

Collector and residential roads with grades steeper than nine per cent are also included in the priority-one category.

Priority-two routes include roads to emergency service buildings — the Castlegar Health Centre, the fire hall, police station and ambulance station — all collector roads, access to schools, commercial and industrial areas, and sidewalks in the downtown core.

Priority three is all remaining residential streets, snow hauling from central business areas — 2nd, 3rd and 4th Streets and Columbia Avenue — street widening, access to water and sewer facilities and access to hydrants.

Priority-four routes include lanes, all remaining sidewalks, city-owned parking lots, cleared paths to the roadway at bus stops and turnouts, and the remaining snow hauling.

Residents can help speed things up by removing unused vehicles, boats, trailers, etc. from streets, and parking vehicles off city roads during snow removal.

Snow removal questions can be directed to the civic works department at 250-365-5979 or civicworks@castlegar.ca.



betsy.kline@castlegarnews.com

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