Mayor slams snow removal operations

The town’s Operations and Facilities committee will have to review its snow removal policy following heated comments by Mayor Glenn Witherspoon and other councillors at Monday night’s meeting.
“The whole damn operation has to improve. Put some common sense into it,” Mayor Witherspoon said during the committee of the whole meeting.
The discussion was sparked after Mayor Witherspoon—much to the agreement of other councillors—remarked town road conditions have been unacceptable and that snow removal operations have been mismanaged.
“I don’t blame the crew. They do what they’re told,” noted the mayor. “But because of the tardiness in calling people out, we’ve put thousands and thousands of dollars to waste.
“I’m upset, I’m unhappy, and I don’t want to be accosted because of the tardiness of our work.
“We are an affluent community and we have a pretty good budget. I don’t believe in opening the door and letting money out,” added Mayor Witherspoon.
“We pay good money for this. Dammit, do it.”
“Accosted is not the word. When you’re retired and you go to coffee with retirees all the time, believe me you hear it,” said Coun. Dave Bourgeault.
“Why are we being picked on for this when we could have done something?” he added, noting more recent decisions—like removing snow from boulevards last week when the snow was naturally turning to slush—just didn’t make any sense.
“Everyone knew a storm was coming yet for some reason, the department didn’t figure it out,” echoed Coun. Struchan Gilson.
Mayor Witherspoon noted acting to clear town streets as soon as possible during a significant snowfall also should be key. “When we get a foot or two of snow, that’s when we bring in the private sector,” he said.
Coun. Sharon Tibbs added clearing emergency routes (e.g., to the hospital, fire department, etc.) should be the top priority during a major snowfall, while Coun. Deane Cunningham suggested snow should be piled in a row down the middle of a street as opposed to being shoved to the curbs.
Another complaint included plowing scheduled at unreasonable times and locations, such as school bus zones in the morning.
“I can agree with some of the comments as far as the response to our first snowfall,” admitted Operations and Facilities manager Pat Hickerson, adding more pre-planning will be necessary in the future.
“But we’ve had several calls saying we’ve done a good job at this point in time.
“I don’t like to see complaints. I would like to see our response improve. All I can say to council is if you don’t see things to your satisfaction, call me,” Hickerson remarked.
Council voted in favour of having Operations and Facilities review its snow removal operations.
In other business at Monday night’s meeting, which was held a week early due to the Christmas holidays, council received a report on the estimated policing costs for 2002.
The report noted the cost is $1,913,460, with few changes from last year. One change is a 3.5 percent benefit decrease for uniformed officers, attributable to a pension premium vacation.
In other news, council:
•agreed to change the position description for POA group leader to POA co-ordinator (the title change does not mean any increase in pay or job duties);
•approved a cheque in the amount of $869.95 to the local “Friends of Animals.” Since the group is now autonomous from the town, the payment is considered a “settling of the account” according to CAO Bill Naturkach;
•authorized approval of a five-year lease agreement with Melaire Ltd. for hangar lot use by the Fort Frances Airport;
•accepted the low bid of $12,463 (plus taxes) from Lowey’s Greenhouse to supply flowers for parks and cemeteries for 2002;
•approved to enact bylaws concerning proposed road construction on the Mill Road overpass to 1.2 km easterly, Elizabeth Street to 50 m north, Wright Avenue to York Avenue, and York Avenue to Central Avenue.
(This work is considered “connecting link construction” to Highway 11/71. These documents will be forwarded to the Ministry of Transportation);
•received the 2002 Operations and Facilities standby coverage list;
•accepted a report from the Ministry of Agriculture regarding the level of maintenance and animal care provided by staff at the town’s animal shelter (the report indicates a “fully satisfactory level of care and maintenance at this facility”);
•passed a bylaw authorizing an agreement with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce to guarantee certain debts of Fort Frances Non-Profit Innovative Homes Inc.; and
•passed a bylaw for the purposes of approving the 2001 council minutes.