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HomeNewsCity Staff Member Chastised Councillor For Asking When Constituents Roads Would Be...

City Staff Member Chastised Councillor For Asking When Constituents Roads Would Be Plowed During Christmas Snowstorm

KAWARTHA LAKES-A Freedom Of Information request by Kawartha 411 shows the Director of Public Works chastising a councillor for asking when his constituent’s roads would be plowed during the height of the December snowstorm. They also show different narratives emerging around the reason for lengthy delays in clearing some roads.

A fierce winter storm hit the City of Kawartha Lakes in December leaving some local roads impassable. The storm began on December 22 with the City declaring a Significant Weather Event on December 24,2022. It lasted until December 30th.

Environment Canada had issued a weather alert days in advance and projected sustained high winds causing poor visibility and dangerous driving conditions.

This declaration suspends the standard timelines required for the City to meet their winter maintenance objectives.  “During a significant weather event, winter maintenance service levels for roads may not be met.” said the City.

Read more here:https://www.kawartha411.ca/2022/12/24/city-of-kawartha-lakes-declares-significant-weather-event-suspending-timelines-required-to-meet-snow-plowing-objectives/

By December 28th some residents started to panic.

Larry Radzio told Kawartha 411 News he was stuck at home near Sebright for five days. He said Day Drive had not been plowed once since the 23rd of December and was completely impassable leaving residents stranded and vulnerable in case of emergency.

“It definitely makes us upset, we’ve been talking down here and we need coverage if there’s anything more serious happening people aren’t going to get in, you can’t get ambulances in,” Radzio told Kawartha 411 News.  “I haven’t heard of anyone here yet with that kind of emergency but definitely there’s a couple in the Sebright area with a sick baby and one lady in our area, her husband is in ICU and she hasn’t been able to see him in for five or six days.”

Radzio wasn’t alone. A number of people took to social media wondering where all the plows were.

On Wednesday Troy Parker said “Has anyone heard anything about plows today? Day Drive still hasn’t been touched.”

“Can someone please plow the lane at Head River lane? We are snowed in and I have a sick 13-month-old baby and I need to go to Toronto just in case I need the hospital,” said Allen Lepine. “I was here to visit my parents for Christmas now we are stuck, please someone come help us please,” he begged at the time.

Read more here: https://www.kawartha411.ca/2022/12/28/anger-builds-as-some-residents-still-waiting-for-roads-to-be-plowed-following-christmas-storm/

Councillor Ron Ashmore says he had been receiving frantic calls and emails from constituents who were stuck in their homes. He told Kawartha 411 at the time he was advocating for his constituents.

“I would like to get some answers. I pleaded for help. They won’t tell me how many staff we have, or where the trucks are, it’s a big secret.” he said.

Carla Monk who lives on Lilac road says she isn’t one to complain but felt compelled to after the City announced it was extending the Significant Weather Event. She sent the Mayor an email on December 27.

“This is me reporting the fact that we have not had a plough on this road at all in the last ten days. Somebody is going to be in dire need of emergency vehicles and not be able to get them because you’re not at least trying to clean everyone’s roads. I know that it was a terrible snow event but it is your job to clean these roads so we can all be safe, we have already had an incidence of a Hydro worker trying to get home last Friday night after being called out with his job and he is my neighbour with health issues and had to sleep in his car overnight because our road is such a mess.” said the email.

Lilac Road was plowed on December 28th.

Kawartha 411 filed a Freedom of information request to get a better idea of what was going on behind the scenes during the storm.

We have learned the Director of Public Works, Bryan Robinson was on vacation at the time. Robinson told Kawartha 411 there was no one designated to act on his behalf during the significant weather event as there was “no need” for it but he then chastised Councillor Ron Ashmore for contacting him while he was on holiday.

The documents received show Councillor Ron Ashmore sent Robinson an email on December 28th saying:

“Bryan, where are the plows, they are not out. There are people stranded on Lilac Road, Settlers Road, Heights Road, Post Road and Ash Road. What do I tell them?

To which Robinson replied in part:

“We are fully deployed today. You should be telling them to log their concerns with the City via the website or phone.” Robinson said “Again, sending me emails while on holiday is not proper process and will only lead to delay. You should not be interjecting yourself into the customer service process.” Robinson said.

Ashmore says he believes it is part of the job of councillors to advocate for their residents, especially in serious situations such as this.

“It is our job to represent constituents and ask questions,” Ashmore told Kawartha 411.

In fact, two other councillors were also asking questions.

Councillor Mike Perry sent Mayor Elmslie an email on December 25th.

“Do you know how I would check the timing of a road plow? Some folks on Country Lane have been snowed in for two days with a senior who has health issues. They know it is a mess out there but they are concerned. They have called the CKL emergency line and left a message. Anyone I could call or email.” Perry says.

Elmslie suggests they cal 911 if they have an emergency.

Emmet Yeo sent an email on the 25th and on the 30th.

“Are we issuing a statement as to why some roads are not plowed for days? Just wondering what to officially tell people?”

In an email to Cheri Davidson, Manager of Communications on December 28th Robinson again says they are fully deployed and all routes are covered “subject to illness and hours of work legislation”.

“Between contracted resources and internal resources, all routes are covered. This is subject to illness and hours of work legislation. We are fully deployed again today. This is not a staff issue it is a volume of snow issue.” Robinson said.

Hours of work legislation means staff can only work so many hours before they must be given a break. Kawartha 411 asked how many staff were booked off on the Christmas holiday and if any were called back to cover hours of work legislation breaks required. Robinson said that was irrelevant.

“It’s irrelevant how many public works staff had holidays booked December 23 and after
because any requested vacation did not impact deployment of a full complement of
resources (labour and equipment) during the significant event. All municipal resources
were deployed to manage the event.” Robinson said.

But in that same email chain, Davidson suggested telling the media about the number of vacancies they have for snow plow operators.

‘”The only additional thing that might help is, if we can confirm the number of vacancies we have for winter control related positions and we can add that we’ve been aggressively recruiting.” said Davidson.

None of that information was made public so it is unclear how many vacancies there were at the time of the event.

On December 25 the Mayor told Ashmore in an email that resources were stretched.

“Ron, everyone is working as best they can there is no magic solution. It’s a big storm and our resources are stretched way past normal,” said Elmslie.

It’s unclear why they didn’t call in any of the staff who were off for Christmas holiday to cover for the “stressed resources”.

Councillor Ashmore emailed Mayor Elmslie suggesting council needed to examine what had led to this situation and how to better handle it in the future, which Elmslie said would happen.

“We will definitely be doing a look at how we might improve, I don’t expect there will be a whole lot come out of it but we need to do it,” stated Mayor Elmslie.

When Kawartha 411 asked about that specific review were told it wasn’t going to happen.

“Staff continually review and assess ways to improve service delivery. Given a similar event in the future, residents should expect and prepare for extended response times.” said Robinson.






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Pamela Vanmeer
Pamela Vanmeerhttps://www.kawartha411.ca/
Pamela VanMeer is a two time winner of the prestigious Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) Award. Her investigative reports on abuse in Long Term Care Homes garnered international attention for the issue and won the Ron Laidlaw Award. She is a former reporter and anchor at CHEX News, now Global Peterborough and helped launch the New CHEX Daily, a daily half hour talk show. While at CHCH News in Hamilton she covered some of the biggest news stories of the day.

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