Thursday, April 24, 2014

Tough winter for town crews

It’s hard to walk into a local coffee shop and not hear complaints about the road conditions in Fort Frances.
But a relentlessly frigid winter—and the problems it has caused—have made it difficult for town crews to keep up with all they have to do.

Operations and Facilities manager Doug Brown said it’s been an unusually tough winter.
But while town workers are behind in removing snow banks from the intersections and roadways, he said minimum maintenance standards for municipal streets are being met.
“The harsh cold temperatures have been with us for over two-and-a-half months, with very few warm-up periods,” Brown stressed.
“As a result, the town’s workforce ability to remove the frozen ice pack from the driving portion of the roadways has been limited since Jan. 1.”
Brown added it hasn’t helped that the area also has received a substantial amount of snow so far this winter.
Winter control activities also have been affected greatly by the fact the town has had, as of this morning, 144 frozen water service lines to thaw since the beginning of January.
By comparison, there were nine in total last year. There was just one in 2012 and six in 2011.
Town crews also have had to respond to six watermain breaks, including the latest one on Victoria Avenue between Church Street and Nelson Street, and had one collapsed sanitary sewer line to repair.
There are three additional watermain breaks which need to be repaired in the near future.
The town normally has an average of only three watermain breaks during the winter months, noted Brown.
On top of all of that, there are two less staff members in the Operations and Facilities division this winter as a result of cutbacks necessitated by the mill’s 2013 reduction in assessment, he added.
Brown said OPP officers monitor the condition of municipal roadways while Public Works staff complete roadway patrols on a regular basis.
But if residents feel the need to register a complaint about winter control activities, such as snowbank removal or the plowing of back lanes, they can call the town office (274-5323) on Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. or the Public Works office (274-9893) on Monday to Friday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
As stated, the town has been kept extremely busy dealing with frozen water lines but it is making good progress.
While new reports of frozen lines continue to come in (with two on Monday, one Tuesday, and another one yesterday), 130 lines have been thawed successfully as of this morning.
Brown noted Public Works employees are working 12 hours’ overtime each weekday and 16 hours’ overtime on Saturdays and Sundays to thaw as many lines as possible.
He added workers presently are addressing frozen lines reported on the weekend, which means that if you report one now, expect a four-day waiting period until the town is able to respond.
Brown noted the town is receiving fewer reports frozen lines each day, which means people are running a tap in their home to keep a constant flow going through it.
“I think the word is out that you should be ‘bleeding’ until end of April or mid May, depending on the spring thaw,” he said.

More stories