HE roads department short on staff

By Sue Tiffin

The following are brief reports of items discussed during a Sept. 10 meeting of Highlands East council.

Earl Covert roads superintendent approached council with a need to hire an additional full-time general equipment operator saying “we’re short-handed big-time.”

“The municipality has an aging workforce” he said. “The roads department has been battling with staffing shortages since the winter season of 2018/2019. Shortages are due to employee absences for medical reasons as well as vacation allotment.”

Currently Covert told council the roads department staff have an accumulated total of 71 weeks of vacation (including overtime) eight weeks of lieu time plus an additional 26 weeks of available sick time (a maximum of 12 days per person).

“With the winter season coming on I don’t know where to turn” he told council.

“The 2018/2019 winter season was a prime example of the unknown and unexpected taking place” wrote Covert in his report. “The roads department was short three full-time members for a lengthy period of time due to medical reasons. The municipality does not have any spare drivers on staff in case of scenarios such as this.” Covert told council the roads department had also been using the mechanic in the field except when required in the garage for most of the summer months due to staff shortages.

“The reason for our previous full-time general equipment operator hire was so the mechanic could work full-time in the garage and complete mechanic work for other departments within the municipality” said Covert.

“It is also important to note that there was a considerable amount of overtime put in last season by the roads staff that were left trying to plow the additional routes” he said. “It is a lot to ask of any staff to consistently work 40 plus hours a week without staff feeling burnt out themselves.”

Shannon Hunter CAO said the municipality is trying to address issues such as an aging workforce before they arise.

“Everything is battling against us” she said. “We’ve tried to be proactive but we have not been able to get there.”

Covert said he hoped to have the new hire in place prior to the winter snow plow season.

Staff wages of the new position would be included in the 2020 budget according to Covert’s report and for the remainder of 2019 additional wages would be offset by the full-time wages that were budgeted for but were unused by staff members who were on medical leaves.

This year’s septic re-inspection program that began in May and reviewed almost 600 systems on properties on Upper Paudash Esson Lake Esson Creek has Contau Lake has come to an end.

In their last report to council student septic maintenance inspectors Jonas Hill and Dylan Smith noted they visited 71 properties on Contau Lake and 153 properties on Esson Lake and Esson Creek. On Contau Lake 17 properties were deemed high-risk 24 were noted to be moderate and 30 properties were recorded as being low-risk. On Esson Creek and Esson Lake 14 properties were deemed to be high-risk 69 were moderate risk and 70 were low-risk. High-risk properties might have a homemade system installed steel tank leaking sewage damaged tank or lid or setbacks might not comply with the Ontario Building Code. Low-risk systems are generally newer 10 years old or less with no vegetation within three metres of the bed and pumped regularly.

The septic re-inspection program has been running since 2017. To date more than 2000 properties have been inspected.