December 3rd, 2021

Lethbridge County adopts new living document to tackle winter maintenance schedule

By Erica Mathieu on November 25, 2021.

Lethbridge County is moving forward with a recommendation to adopt a living document for a baseline level of service (LOS) with respect to winter maintenance.
Jeremy Wickson, director of Public Operations for the county, outlined the features of such a document.
“The one thing I am trying to create is some forward-looking pieces that can be advertised to the public so they can understand what (winter maintenance entails).”
Wickson announced, “administration has developed, over several years, an LOS policy document that formalizes the majority of winter maintenance activities that the Public Works department provides to county stakeholders.”
Wickson said council had previously adopted several separate policy documents that represented defined portions of levels of service. Policy 342 was adopted in 1978, and acted as a snow plowing policy that outlined a framework for winter maintenance services. However, Wickson said this document was “limited in its scope and lacked detail to the extent that it was a one-page document versus the (new) winter LOS document (which is) is tens of pages.”
Wickson said the LOS document aims to provide a clearer direction of the services to county stakeholders. Adding that the public can have a “tangible view of the maintenance operations goals and targets.” The document would function as a “key communication device in establishing future priorities for maintenance requirements and be a living document that is brought back to council on an annual basis.” The document is intended to provide a baseline of the core services, but is not intended to be an exhaustive list of every service covered.
The budget is approved annually, but the winter maintenance policy bridges two calendar years, and therefore two budget cycles. Wickson spoke to the unpredictable weather events in southern Alberta and pointed out the required LOS is, “a moving target” for the county each year. Adding, “in a worst-case, if we have multiple weather events, which, with climate change, there is a potential that we could be faced with some severe weather at any given time and at that point, there needs to be an adjustment to accommodate what that service is and communicate the need for more resources to be allocated.”
The winter maintenance LOS document can be altered at any point to help accommodate shifts in demand and other variables.
“Obviously, we don’t want to reinvent this every time, but the idea is that it can be opened up for approval every year to see if council wants to make adjustments of the level of service,” added Wickson.
Speaking to the financial impacts of the document, Wickson said the 2021 budget approved $475,000 for plowing and sanding, which has since been adjusted downward, to $408,000 for 2022.
Wickson reiterated there may be years where demands and costs fluctuate. Wickson said the living document will provide an opportunity each year for the county to further analyze demands and, “make necessary adjustments through further public engagement.”
Ultimately, Wickson said the reason for the recommendation to adopt the new LOS document is to “ensure (the) stability and direction of services to the stakeholders of Lethbridge County.”
Council voted unanimously to rescind the existing policy 342, and a subsequent motion was carried to adopt Wickson’s recommendation of the winter maintenance LOS.

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