Long winter took its toll on equipment

Consultant’s report sheds light on snowclearing in St. John’s

Published on June 26, 2014
Mount Pearl resident Robin Shaw uses the snowblower that he converted from this 1950s era Bombardier sidewalk plow to clear snow from his driveway on Park Avenue in January 2013. — File photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Details included in a consultant’s report on the current state of snowclearing in St. John’s suggest a long winter took its toll on equipment used to clear city streets and sidewalks.

KPMG prepared what it calls the “As Is” Report, highlighting current snowclearing practices and summarizing what transpired last winter.

That company is currently undertaking a winter maintenance review for the city and is scheduled to release a final report with recommendations in the fall.

Of the 44 trucks available to use for clearing streets, at least 28 must be available to cover an identical number of routes. According to the report, there were 11 days last winter when less than 28 trucks operated, with none available to provide backup coverage in the event of a breakdown.

Annual inspections and preventative maintenence usually handled in the summer were not completed for all sidewalk plows, resulting in equipment issues in November and December.

The city tackled many winter storms with less than half of its 11 tracked sidewalk plows operating. As for trackless sidewalk plows, only one of its 14 plows was operating by the beginning of January, though others were back in service later that month.

Deputy city manager of public works Paul Mackey said the city hopes to find ways this summer to make sure equipment is ready to operate earlier in the winter.

“These are things that we’re asking the consultant to look at and provide recommendations on for us on how we can achieve that, because a lot of this equipment is used for other operations as well,” said Mackey.

“For example, a lot of our sidewalk plows are used in the summer operations for grass mowing ... and other operations in the park. So you can’t take it out of service too early, because it’s already in use. You have to balance that and try to anticipate that window there when it’s available to be serviced and overhauled and put back to be available for winter operations.”

The city’s fleet services division tracked the availability of equipment at the beginning of each day. This winter, 50 per cent of blower attachments for loader trucks and 66 per cent of stand-alone blowers were available, on average. Loaders (85 per cent) and sidewalk snowblowers (84 per cent) were the most readily available vehicles.

The report notes those rates could actually be lower when taking into account the average includes days when there is no snow falling.

“If we get a long winter with a lot of hard snow and ice, it takes its toll on the equipment,” said Mackey.

“Those years, availability tends to be lower, particularly as the winter wears on. Equipment availability is a challenge for us every winter.”

The delivery of parts needed to make repairs has also proven to be an issue affecting the availability of equipment. Mackey said the city does try to stock what it can in its inventory.

“We have a stock room in our operations at the municipal depot and we do keep any part we have identified, and that usually comes through with the equipment from the supplier, some recommended spare parts. ... We can’t stock an infinite amount of spare parts.”

Public consultations for the review resume tonight  at the Southlands Community Centre at 7 p.m.

Residents can also submit comments and download the “As Is” Report by going to www.snowsj.com.


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