Friday, Nov. 20, 2015 (Halifax, NS) – The Halifax Regional Municipality has made some changes to its Winter Operations program this season that aim to improve service for residents.
Last winter was among the worst in decades with above average snowfall, colder than normal temperatures, flash-freezing, multiple-day storms, freezing rain and drifting snow, all of which seriously hampered snow and ice management in all areas of the Halifax region.
As a result, the municipality spent the off-season reviewing the Winter Operations program, both internally and through an independent consultant, with an eye to incorporating lessons learned in order to deliver better results. The changes are expected to improve service and accountability internally, and ensure contractors have the experience, equipment and capacity to better deal with both typical and extraordinary winter conditions.
Street clearing contracts awarded this summer expanded the geographic area to be covered by fixed-cost contractors, helping to stabilize expenditures. Those contracts are designed to deliver better coordination between street and sidewalk operators, particularly in areas with limited space for snow storage. This change is intended to reduce instances of street plows depositing snow on sidewalks that were recently plowed.
The municipality has also secured access to more equipment, including graders, sidewalk machinery and backhoes. With more equipment on retainer and a smaller geographic area to clear, our in-house crews should be better positioned to improve service delivery in the areas they are responsible for – primarily downtown Halifax and Dartmouth, Clayton Park and the surrounding areas, and the Burnside Industrial Park.
Monitoring and measuring plays an important part in improving service delivery and accountability. This season vehicle tracking technology will be used on all municipal equipment to provide real-time information for staff. Among other things, this will enable supervisors to track where our equipment has been and where it is currently, which is useful for identifying the nearest piece of equipment when a call comes in from emergency services.
The municipality has also assigned more of its staff to oversee contractors and ensure timely, safe and efficient clearing in all neighbourhoods.
Last winter reinforced the importance of securing off-street parking during the winter months so that operators can properly clear the streets and sidewalks. The overnight winter parking ban will be in place again this season and the city is stepping up efforts with ticketing and towing vehicles, with a greater focus on areas like bus routes, streets around hospitals and schools, and typically problematic areas for snow equipment and emergency vehicles.
Finally, to help ensure a timely response to public inquiries, 311 Halifax now has a designated Winter Operations role that will handle all email and online service requests during the winter months. This position will also serve as a centralized dispatcher for snow-related calls that require follow-up action.
Residents are reminded that if they contact 311, whether electronically or by phone, about snow or ice removal during a weather event or while we are still within the timelines identified in the service standards, their concern will be recorded but not dispatched, as it’s expected crews will get to all areas as they’re able.
Residents are encouraged to report any issues once the timelines have expired. They can call 311, email email@example.com or fill out an online service request at https://apps.halifax.ca/311. This will help reduce contact volume and ensure that residents trying to reach 311 with urgent issues aside from snow are able to get through to an agent in a timely fashion.