County of Wetaskiwin keeps status quo on clearing snowy roads

School division asked that bus routes be given priority

County of Wetaskiwin council will keep its road clearing policy “status quo” after a school division requested its bus routes be given priority.

The issue was presented to councilors at the Mar. 26 Public Works council meeting. County CAO Rod Hawken presented the request to council.

“A letter was received dated March 1, 2019 from the Wetaskiwin Regional Public Schools regarding the Maintenance of Roads on School Bus Routes,” stated Hawken in his memo to council.

“The Wetaskiwin Regional Public School is a mass transportation provider in the County of Wetaskiwin, Wetaskiwin Regional Public Schools is requesting for consideration from Council and administration to adopt a practice whereby school bus routes would be prioritized for maintenance items such as snow removal, sanding, scarifying, dust control, grading, etc.

“In recent weeks, bus routes have been adjusted where roads are deemed impassable by school bus operators. At times, these adjustments lasted multiple weeks.

“During periods of route adjustments or bus stop movements, students are required to walk to new locations deemed more appropriate for a school bus pick up and/or drop off. These changes, more often than not increase the time students spend in cold winter temperatures.”

A copy of Wetaskiwin Public Schools’ letter was provided to councilors. Signed by board chair Barb Johnson, the letter stated, “This request was discussed at a Joint Liaison Committee meeting held on February 20, 2019. At that time, County representatives expressed concern that giving preferential treatment to bus routes would cause inefficiencies in service and discontent amongst ratepayers.

“Wetaskiwin Regional Public Schools would ask that your Council consider this request as it relates to the health and safety of students.”

During debate it was clarified that much of the request included ensuring school bus routes were plowed of snow first, and any other routes be named a lesser priority.

“The issue is the impact it has on the rest of our residents,” said Hawken.

Councilor Kathy Rooyakkers pointed out there are county residents who need roads plowed because of health situations, homecare and other concerns.

Hawken pointed out it is possible that bus routes can also change throughout the year as well.

Councilor Lyle Seely stated he felt the county’s current road clearing policy is fine and moved that the county stay status quo when it comes to clearing snow off roads, including the current policy that roads should be cleared within 72 hours of a major snowfall.

Reeve Terry Van de Kraats agreed, stating he felt the county’s current road clearing system is fair.

Councilors unanimously supported Seely’s motion.

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