‘We’ve hit a wall here’: winter road works up 15%

Public Works Division Manager Bill de Wit, left, and GM John St. Marseille listen to a question from Coun. Mark MacDonald, not shown, during a budget meeting Jan. 29, 2015. The public works department is facing a 15 per cent increase for winter road maintenance. (Cornwall Newswatch/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – Public Works Division Manager Bill de Wit says the city could be facing deficits in future years unless it gets winter road works under control.

The department presented its budget Thursday afternoon calling for a nearly 15 per cent increase for so-called “winter control.” The proposed winter budget is $2.6 million, compared to $2.2 million.

This is one part of the overall budget which is up 6.23 per cent.

de Wit told budget committee members they have been budgeting for three year winter weather cycles and the last cycle didn’t even cover 2014.

There’s also an increase for purchasing salt. “If we scrimp on salt, we run into liability issues,” said de Wit. The same holds true for magnesium chloride, an agent mixed with salt to intensify its effects.

“It is a concern,” said Coun. Brock Frost on word the municipality depleted its reserve in 2014 for winter control and also ended last year with a deficit.

“We try to be frugal (when it comes to clearing snowbanks on roads). Depending on the snowfall tonight (Thursday) we had planned on clearing some but we will probably be diverted (to plow),” said de Wit.

“I believe you have hit a wall,” said Coun. Mark MacDonald. “The pie that we have for the emergency services gets greater and greater and that’s why you hit a wall.”

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