Addressing icy conditions during the winter months may present a future revenue opportunity for the R.M. of Wallace-Woodworth. At last week’s regular virtual meeting, Council considered establishing a policy to guide municipal employees in the sanding of roadways, and whether or not to offer the service to commercial businesses on a user-pay basis.
After a bout of freezing rain late last month rendered it hazardous, Valleyview Consumers Co-op reached out to the R.M. public works staff to apply sand to the parking lot of its Kenton store. Their request was granted, and according to Chief Administrative Officer Garth Mitchell, the job took about five minutes and used a relatively small quantity of material.
Deputy Reeve Val Caldwell thought that having the municipality perform such work for the business community on an ongoing basis had merit, but stressed that it cannot be at the expense of maintaining its own infrastructure. “If it takes five minutes to do it, is it really not a service that we could do for the community, versus some having someone fall and break a hip?” she asked. “It’s not very often you get an inch of rain and then a blizzard. It was like a skating rink in that parking lot, so if we have the capacity to do it, and I certainly agree with charging them for it, then I would like to see us be able to offer it to the businesses, but only if our guys have time to do it and they get the municipal stuff done first.”
Meanwhile, Coun. Barb Stambuski had reservations about taking business away from private contractors, and thought that the charges should reflect that. “We have to make sure our rates are at least equal or more than what locals are so we’re not taking business away from businesses,” she said.
She and Caldwell stressed the need for consistency. “We almost need a sanding policy, because there seems to be some confusion around town. Some people are now under the assumption that now we have a sander we’re going to do all the roads all the time, and we need to prioritize what is the municipal work we expect these guys to do,” Caldwell said.
Reeve Clayton Canart supported the principle of offering custom work, particularly in a case where there may not be another option. However, he feared it could be problematic down the road. “I want to just be able to do it, because it seems so simple and an easy way to help out, but I do feel that it could be one of those things that is really going to bite us later, because we could end up with more complaints about not getting it done, when they (businesses) were expecting it.,” he said. “We need to put some more thought into this and come up with some sort of a policy or a plan.”
Council decided that the work done in the Co-op parking lot would be treated as a one-time gesture given its slippery state, and asked that administration draft a policy for their review which would apply to such occurrences in the future.