Waterloo Region is looking to hire up to 15 full-time employees to clear snow from township roads, winning support for that option from councillors meeting Tuesday afternoon.
A staff report says the region is having increasing difficulty hiring seasonal staff to carry out the work, relying more often on outside contractors that come with additional expense.
Prepared by manager of transportation operations Emil Marion, the report notes the cities are paid to clear regional roads in Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge, but the other half of the 1,800-kilometre regional road network runs into the four townships. Those roads have typically been cleared by some 12 to 18 temporary full-time employees, but the region is having trouble filling those seasonal positions. In 2020, then, the region paid contractors some $595,000 to do some of the work.
By phasing in 15 new full-time employees over three years, the overall costs would rise – an additional $122,000 beyond the current budget for plowing and maintenance once external contracts were eliminated – but there would be more staff to carry out other road and maintenance work outside of the snow-clearing season.
‘In recent years, it has become increasingly difficult for the region to hire a sufficient number of temporary winter snow plow operators to undertake winter maintenance on regional roads in the four townships,” the report notes. “Based on this ongoing difficulty, and knowledge of similar challenges throughout the industry, staff have concluded that the practice of utilizing temporary full-time staff for winter operations is no longer feasible. Another challenge being experienced in transportation operations is insufficient full-time staff to fully complete preventative maintenance on much of the infrastructure under its care, particularly on pavements, drainage infrastructure and vegetation.”
In addition to staff costs, there would be a one-time cost of $655,000 to buy new equipment.
“This was an issue that we had brought up with the regional staff some time ago… we asked them to look into it, we thought that maybe there was an opportunity for the townships to partner with them and do some work on it,” said Wellesley Mayor Joe Nowak. “They basically did a study and can come up with the recommendations – one of the problems that they had was to find seasonal people that would just work in the wintertime to do the plowing. That’s maybe only a six-month job – hard to find people that would just be willing to work for that period of time. So, they’ve come up with a solution.
“I think there’s a lot of roadwork on the regional roads that can be done in the summertime – tree maintenance is one of the big ones. They’re very, very behind. The long and the short of it there, they’ve got people now that can that they can hire for a full-time basis that there’ll be enough work for 12 months of the year.”