As the first snow of winter 2020 fell on the area’s mountain highways, the road maintenance contractor for the North Okanagan and Shuswap told local governments they are prepared for the season.
Gabriel Nava, the operations manager for the AIM Roads division responsible for a large area of highways and rural roads between the northern tip of Shuswap Lake and Cherryville, near Vernon, presented to the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) board on Oct. 15. Also presenting was Peter Cocker from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
Nava said AIM, which is entering its second winter as the maintenance contractor for the area, has been preparing for winter since early September. He said they have about 80 per cent of their winter equipment ready and have all their necessary seasonal staff hired. Salt and other material for winter road maintenance has already been purchased and delivered to AIM yards.
Some changes have been made following last winter which saw AIM receive many complaints from the public as heavy snow storms in early January left them struggling to keep up. Nava said all of AIM’s vehicles in the North Okanagan and Shuswap are now fitted with GPS tracking, which he said will allow them more control over their winter operations. He said the road maintenance crews’ shifts have also changed, allowing for a one-hour overlap between shifts. When calls from the public do come in, Nava said a senior foreman would now be answering at all of AIM’s locations.
Winter conditions are already being observed in parts of the Shuswap. CSRD Area D director Rene Talbot said he was had encountered slippery surfaces on the wood-decked bridges along Salmon River Road. Nava said patrols evaluating road conditions are already underway, 24 hours a day.
Cocker, the representative from the government ministry in charge of overseeing AIM’s work, said the contractor’s preparedness and work throughout the winter would be audited. Opportunity to improve or non compliance reports can be written if AIM’s work does not meet the government’s specifications Cocker added.
CSRD Area F director Jay Simpson said the North Shuswap community he serves wants more regular updates on when they can expect their streets cleared after a storm from either AIM or the ministry throughout the winter. CSRD board chair Kevin Flynn said the ministry needs to do a better job of communicating whose responsibility the upkeep of highways and rural roads is in order to cut down the volume of calls the CSRD receives requesting snow clearance.
-With files from Cameron Thomson