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Saturday, July 4, 2020
Connecting Our Communities

Snow-clearing crews put to an early test in the townships

Monday brought more than just Remembrance Day, as snow-clearing crews in Woolwich and Wellesley townships were pressed into service in no small way.

The at-times treacherous road conditions were something of a baptism by fire for Woolwich’s new manager of operations, Carter Maguire, who recently took over from the now semi-retired Barry Baldasaro, the former public works superintendent.

As this is the first year for Maguire in the new role, it’s also his first year experiencing a winter in the township. “Luckily, Barry is still involved in the township and so I can lean on him as a great resource.”

Aside from the new manager role there will be two additional supervisors – a road supervisor and a water supervisor.

Leading up to the arrival of winter weather, maintenance crews were busy ensuring the trucks and plows were ready for season. Calibration of the equipment is especially critical to getting the mixture of pickled sand just right, Maguire explained.

“We ensure that we’re applying the proper amount of salt and sand to the roadways.”

Likewise the operating team in Wellesley Township also send out their vehicles for inspection before hitting the roads, says public works technician Ryan Baker.

In Woolwich there are currently eight routes that are maintained by 10 frontline staff, covering all of the townships urban and rural roads.

“With the rural section there’s a mixture of the types of road services – the gravel and then the hard surface. We have two graters in house used for addressing as much of the gravel as possible but we do put trucks out on the gravel surfaces when needed,” explained Maguire.

Similarly, Baker explains that Wellesley has eight full-time staff who are dedicated to snow clearing during the season in all areas of the community.

All staff are trained to learn about the concepts around clearing snow, sanding, and salting operations with the exception of any new staff who are required to take some training sessions run by the Region of Waterloo.

“They also have a test track that we can send the vehicles out to, then they can learn how to run the machines before they hit the actual roadways,” added Maguire.

Also entering into the equation is the township’s winter control budget, which is set for the calendar year: an especially hard early part of the year can leave little in the coffers for dealing with snow in November and December.

“It’s all weather dependent. If we have a warm streak then we’ll be fine; if it snows nonstop then there could be an impact to the budget that way,” said Maguire.

For this year, Monday’s wintry weather exhausted what was left of the budget, Woolwich director of finance Richard Petherick reported this week.

Budget considerations aside, meeting the expectations of the public can often be a challenge for the snow clearing crew, said Baker, who explains that it takes time for the operators to cover all the routes in the township.

“We ask that residents be patient and plan their days according to the weather,” he added.

There is also the unknown of how the weather and the snow will pan out, despite being mechanically ready and staffed accordingly, Maguire noted.

All municipalities have to follow minimum maintenance standards set by the province, determined by the amount of snow and condition of the roads.

As the operations manager in Woolwich, Maguire knows there are six different classes of roads in the township, each with varying response times available to road crews.

Aside from different road classes there, routes are graded as primary or secondary when it comes to clearing snow. “Rural roads are lower class roads, so the gravel roads cannot expect to get the same time response as the paved surfaces,” Maguire explained.

Keeping the roads clear during the winter is never an easy task, both Maguire and Baker note, adding that patience is needed – if sometimes in short supply – on everybody’s part. Crews in both townships have a great deal of geography to cover, and conditions sometimes cause delays. They recommend keeping an eye on the weather forecast and making any travel plans accordingly.

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