Gore Bay hires new driver, purchases extra plow truck in light of contract changes

GORE BAY—With a reduction in snowplowing services announced by the Ministry of Transport (from its new contractor DBi Services) and one less plow for Manitoulin highways, the Town of Gore Bay has been forced to hire an additional permanent full-time public works staff member, as well as purchase another truck and salt/spreader to cover a portion of highway leading into town.

“I would recommend that we express our dissatisfaction with this,” stated Gore Bay Councillor Jack Clark at a council meeting Monday. “It’s important to stand up and let them know we are not happy.”

Mayor Ron Lane indicated that a portion of Highway 540B, a throughway into the town, is not going to continue to be plowed/salted by DBi, as had been the norm in the past through MTO contractors.

“On October 31 we received an email from DBi indicating they will not be honouring the previous contract for plowing/salting that portion of highway into the town. We have been in touch with upper management of the company to try and convince them to continue with the contract, but it has been to no avail,” confirmed town clerk Annette Clarke. She explained, “DBi has made it clear they are not interested in continuing because it was not worth placing a second truck in the area to do that portion of the highway and that it wouldn’t pay for itself.”

As well, Ms. Clarke explained the town public works department has looked at several options, and noted the highway is designated class three and has been maintained at a higher level than the other town streets.

“And we exceed the minimum maintenance standards for roads in town,” said Ms. Clarke. She pointed out the town was already planning to place $20,000 in the 2013 budget for the purpose of purchasing a new half-ton truck and staff have investigated pricing for both new and used vehicles and spreaders (and a good used vehicle and new spreader) can be purchased within a $25,000 limit.

The town could consider a reduction in service and still meet the standards but it wouldn’t be a popular decision, it was pointed out. “This portion of the highway has to be more accountable, it is an access point in and out of town for ambulance, fire, police and school buses,” Ms. Clarke told council.

Council was informed when the public works committee explored its options that hiring another permanent full-time public works staff member was already being discussed for the 2013 budget. The town currently has an additional person working eight months of the year, and it would cost an additional $10,000 to cover the remaining four months. Hiring a person for the winter months would allow for another person to be trained on the snowplow.

“In the end (the public works committee) decided we should be looking at purchasing a three-quarter ton truck and a salt spreader,” said Ms. Clarke.

The town already has Darren Nodecker who works in the public works department eight months of the year, and if he was hired full time he could get a full-time licence for operating this type of roads equipment to do this type of plowing/sanding work, council was told.

“We had a good deal with the previous contractors, but the deal is over now,” said Mr. Lane.”The unfortunate thing about all this is that we received such short notice. They could have said in the summer they weren’t going to continue to plow that portion of highway but we only found out two weeks ago. We had made the assumption the year to year contract to have this portion of highway plowed/sanded would continue.”

The portion of highway that is in consideration is basically from Manitoulin Transport to Noble’s, council was told.

“We had already looked at purchasing a half-ton truck in the new year,” said Ms. Clarke.

“Is the truck we are looking into still available?”asked Mr. Lane, and this was confirmed as the case.

Mr. Lane stressed a decision is needed immediately. “If it snows tonight we don’t have the equipment to do the job. We need to act immediately.” As for a new employee, “there are a number of other projects he can be working on in the winter, for instance at the arena. This would have been discussed to look at in the 2013 budget anyway.”

“Where are we going to get the additional $10,000?” asked Ms. Addison.

It was explained that it would actually be looked at in the town’s 2013 budget.

“If we need an extra employee, Darren has proven himself as a town employee, and if we have other work he can handle as well, it makes sense to hire him,” said Councillor Wes Bentley.

Council passed a motion to hire Darren Nodecker as a permanent full-time employee in the Gore Bay Public Works Department, and a second motion to purchase a used three-quarter ton truck and a salt/sand spreader for the purpose of salting the highway and replacing the current half-ton truck in the public works department with the cost of the truck and spreader not to exceed $25,000.

Formerly, under Belanger Construction, there were six plows and one spare: three in Little Current, two in Gore Bay and one spare located in Mindemoya. According to MTO regional issues and media advisor Gordan Rennie, DBi will have five plows on Island roads and one spare this winter, although he has stressed that maintenance standards have not changed.

Tom Sasvari