Municipal staff

City staff can now declare significant weather events to suspend minimum road maintenance requirements

The Town of Huntsville’s Director of Operations may declare a major weather event to suspend minimum maintenance requirements, protect the municipality from liability, and warn residents and visitors.

City Operations Manager Kevin Boucock appeared before Huntsville Council at its Jan. 24 meeting to ask that it authorize the Operations Manager, or his delegate, to call such events.

He said legislation detailing the minimum maintenance standards required for municipalities was passed in early 2000 with two main objectives: to address issues such as sidewalk maintenance and snow removal.

Boucock said the ability to suspend standard maintenance requirements due to a significant weather event was added to legislation in 2018.

“We did not consider it necessary to set it up. It covers many different weather events, but the main thing is to help the municipality if for some reason unforeseen weather conditions… arise and challenge the municipality to get it. [roads, sidewalks] done within the timeframes and schedules set out in the minimum maintenance standards,” he said, adding that the problems faced by municipalities could extend to equipment failure, delay in obtaining parts or the possibility that a significant portion of the municipal operations workforce may be out of order due to COVID.

Although Boucock said there was no intention to use the ability to declare such an event unless necessary, it protects the municipality by pausing maintenance requirements until the notice is lifted.

“It doesn’t have to be used all the time, I don’t plan on using it, but it’s there. It’s a tool. It’s in our back pocket if we need it,” he said.

Director of Operations and Protective Services Steve Hernen told council the issue arose following discussions with the district and area municipalities about mutual assistance in the event of severe weather and shortage of staff due to COVID. He said calling a meaningful time slip is how the district plans to handle staffing shortages if they occur.

” They have [District staff] got authority uploaded on them they can just do it. If the board doesn’t want to pass this and we end up in the same situations, that would just mean we would have to call an emergency board meeting and ask the board to make that statement. So it just eliminates that step,” Hernen said. “The intention is certainly not to use it on a regular basis. That was even more the case with all this COVID, and this planning, and three or four weeks ago when the government was saying to start planning, you know, 30% or 40% labor shortages, we’ve realized there’s one thing we can do to help shore that up, if you will, if we’re having staffing issues.

The Board approved the by-law to delegate to staff the authority to report such an event.

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