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Issues with snow clearing have Woolwich officials looking to do better

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Inexperienced plow operators are at the root of an upswing in complaints about snow clearing in Woolwich Township in the past couple of years, officials say.

Some roads have been particularly bad this winter due to the high volume of snow by comparison to relatively milder years. The situation has generated plenty of grievances from residents.

Describing himself as “grumpy” about it, Coun. Patrick Merlihan had plenty of questions in calling for action as councillors met January 9.

“It’s a complete mess on the streets. It’s really indefensible,” he said of the state of the roads over the weekend, adding the issues and the public’s complaints really started to mount over the holidays.

“I would like something to get done about it.”

Dan Kennaley, the township’s director of engineering and planning, said a wave of retirements has seen experienced drivers replaced by new employees who have less than a full season under their belts. Scheduling around the holidays proves especially trying, he added, acknowledging the quality of work has suffered.

Issues related to specific complaints have been raised with individual plow drivers, who are learning from the experience, said Kennaley.

“We’re absolutely looking for improvement, too.”

Coun. Mark Bauman noted the service has been fine in St. Jacobs so far this year – “You do have some good operators” – but pointed out that actually getting out and moving snow is the only way for new staff members to learn the ropes.

That said, he asked if the township was making use of retirees to help with the training.

Kennaley noted that has been the case in the past, with more likely to come.

Pointing out that Woolwich used to be known in the region for the quality of its road clearing, chief administrative officer David Brenneman said the goal now is to get back to that elevated standard.

For Merlihan, there’s a long way to go to get back to what was once a trouble-free situation.

“In the past it’s been a really good service. Now we just have a service.”

Eyeing forecasts that predict a large dump of snow is possible this weekend, Merlihan quizzed Kennaley on the township’s readiness.

“We’ll make every effort to make sure we’re prepared for it. We’ll do what we can to marshal our forces,” said Kennaley, adding holiday scheduling won’t be an issue.

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