By Cole Parkinson
With concerns over road maintenance brought up during the Municipal District of Taber’s annual general meeting in April, council is starting to discuss how best to tackle the issues they face.
A local resident around the Enchant area had brought up his concerns about the road conditions around his house which had caused his children to miss several weeks of school throughout the winter and into spring.
While road maintenance has been discussed at length for the past several months, the amount of snow and subsequent floods proved a challenge for M.D. staff as they had been forced to play catch up.
A potential solution M.D. council has been discussing is adding more graders to the larger regions in the municipal district.
“Are we at a point where we want to look at how we are doing grading operations? I spent some time talking to residents after that (AGM) and there were some comments that they felt that there could be additional grader support in their area. I’d like to make sure those comments are not unfounded and that our staff has support from us that they need to meet all of the roads,” said Coun. Tamara Miyanaga at the M.D.’s May 22 meeting.
Currently, the M.D. employs nine regular graders in the nine districts with two floaters that help out where needed. There is roughly 2,700 kilometres of roads throughout the region with it split around 180 kilometres for each grader.
A big point made by council was that certain roads in the M.D. need to see graders constantly, whereas some roads don’t need much maintenance.
“In some of the areas, once or twice a year is probably enough but there are others where once a week wouldn’t be too often,” said Coun. John Turcato.
Another suggestion Turcato made revolved around keeping data on which roads across the M.D. need maintenance more frequently.
With the thought of having logs of where graders need to be more often, it would allow the operators to easily access a guide of where each high traffic road is.
“Do we have an understanding or knowledge of where our heavy, high traffic roads are? Maybe that’s a good place to start, if we don’t have that data it’s pretty hard for the graders to know where to grade. We live in the areas, so we kind of know. Maybe it’s something as councillors we can help. I’m not saying we’ve been doing a bad job but you can always do things better,” continued Turcato.
M.D. administration acknowledged Turcato’s request and advised him that all graders are tracked and logged daily.
The next step would be then to identify the areas of key concerns for each district.
“All of our graders are logged daily so we can certainly ask Jeremy (Wickson, director of public works), Craig (Pittman, public works superintendent) and Bryce (Surina, director of IT and GIS) to take a look at the districts. One of the things I suggest you do, if you get to meet with Jeremy, is to make sure your road prioritization lines up with the frequency of grading,” said Derrick Krizsan, CAO for the M.D. of Taber.
Even with concerns about roads across the M.D., council realizes that their roads are better than plenty of other municipalities throughout the province.
They were also very complimentary of the staff that have operating the graders as they have been putting in tons of hours in order to get the roads back up to a sufficient level.
“We have an expectation of what the road should be. Are we providing enough support to our graders to do that? We have heard from rate payers, and not just from the AGM, we’ve heard that before. On the flip side, we also receive a lot of compliments on our roads and we don’t have to go far to other M.D.’s to find out we don’t have bad roads,” added Miyanaga.
Other questions poised by the council revolved around how best to approach the large quantities of roadways they have to maintain throughout the year.
Of the variety of options posed, council was in favour of exploring any option that would be best for the M.D.
“I don’t think it hurts to review the whole situation every once in a while. What can we do better? Is there a better way to do it? Do we need another grader? Could we have contractors in during our busy seasons? That’s how I look at it, what are our other options? I don’t know if we need to buy another grader but maybe we do,” said Reeve Brian Brewin.
No decisions were made at the meeting.