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Staff shortage hindering slow plowing in Castlegar

Castlegar’s mayor says city staff don’t deserve the flak they’ve been getting over snow plowing.

Maria McFaddin said while the city welcomes “complaints, frustrations, concerns,” from residents, she didn’t appreciate the tone of some of those who criticized their efforts.

“The majority of people have done that in an appropriate manner with kindness,” she said during her report to council this week.

“But to those of you who have not, our city staff does not deserve to be treated the way some of you have responded. My expectation is that Castlegar, you’re better than that.

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“Those of you who think they’re not human beings and would like to treat them like that, that’s not acceptable. Let’s do that in a respectful manner that understands people are trying to do the best they can.”

McFaddin apologized to city staff for some of the messages they received and some of the language those messages contained, saying it was “not appropriate.”

Municipal services manager Chris Hallam told council competing priorities and being a few bodies short have made snow plowing challenging this year.

The city has two separate groups responsible for snow clearing. The roads crew takes care of roads, parking lots, and alleyways using plow trucks and loaders. Although they normally have 11 people on this crew, right now they are down to nine, in part due to one long-term medical leave.

That crew is normally supplemented during the winter by four casual light equipment operators, but this year there are only two.

“We had a hard time finding qualified casual labour,” Hallam said.

Overall, that means the road crew is at 11 out of 15.

However, the parks crew, which is responsible for sidewalk and pathway snow removal using machines, has a full complement of five, and sometimes supplements the road crew.

Hallam said the city has eight “critical pieces” of equipment: three loaders, three plow trucks with sanders, and two trackless machines for sidewalks and pathways.

In addition to having fewer people, “one-time competing priorities” such as the biosolid removal project at the sewage treatment plant has affected snow plowing. Hallam said they have had to dedicate a loader plus one to two people to those efforts.

Additionally, they have had other demands, such as grave digging, to take care of. Compounding things, they have run into equipment failures, leaving them “struggling to deliver essential services.”

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