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(Posted 1 a.m., Nov. 27)
The city is spending too much on winter maintenance, auditor finds

By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

The City of Ottawa has been providing its residents with premium winter maintenance services at a premium cost, according to city auditor Ken Hughes.

In one of five audit reports released on Thursday, Hughes points out that the winter maintenance standards are higher than all but one other municipality in the province and the highest cost per kilometre of roadway in the province.

The provincial standard calls for residential streets to be cleared 16-20 hours after a major snowfall. The city standard is 10 hours. The difference is only 1-2 hours for busier streets like Jeanne d'Arc Blvd., Tenth Line Road, and Orléans Blvd.

In his report, Hughes notes that providing a higher service standard than other municipalities in the province is a key contributor to the city having the highest cost per kilometre of roadway in the province and that there is a potential for savings if the standards are brought more in line with the other municipalities.

Among the 20 recommendations contained in the report, Hughes believes the city should conduct a thorough review of its winter maintenance operations to ensure an optimal mix of internal and contracted services.

Perhaps sensing what direction the auditor's report might take, the City has already contracted KPMG to do a review of its winter maintenance standards and practices, however, it won't be completed until the spring. In the meantime, the public works department must find $2.7 million in savings this winter as set out in the 2016 draft budget.

The annual winter maintenance budget is about $60 million.

Hughes also recommends that the city should consider charging car owners who fail to obey winter parking restrictions the cost of towing to recoup the expenditure.

It's unsure how the recommendations will be received by the city councillors, some of whom are reticent to reduce the winter maintenance service levels fearing a push back their constituents. But that debate will have to wait until after the KPMG report is tabled next week.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

 

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