Petrolia public works gets rid of street sweeper, to use one less snowplow to save cash

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It might take a little longer to get the snow off Petrolia’s streets next winter.

The town’s director of operations, Mike Thompson, has taken a look at the department to find a number of ways to find savings and create revenue to make the operation more efficient. He’s found about $550,000 in current and future savings.

Thompson recently recommended to Petrolia council that it use two snowplows instead of three. “The town significantly exceeds the provincial standard with operating three plows,” he wrote in his report. Thompson says the three units are old and in need of replacement. If the town buys just two plows it will save $225,000.

Thompson says people will likely notice a difference in service. “Instead of having the streets plowed by seven, they’ll be plowed by 9 or 10 in the morning,” he says adding in some communities it takes until mid-afternoon to have all the streets cleared.

Thompson also recommended contracting out street sweeping. The town will sell its unit – which is in need of replacement. He suggests all town streets could be swept in the spring and fall and the downtown may still see the sweeper once a week. Last year, the town spent a couple of hours every Friday cleaning area roads.

Councilor Ross O’Hara liked the idea wondering if the downtown streets needed a once-a-week cleaning.

Thompson says that would save $15,000 in operational savings this year and save buying a $200,000 replacement.

The report, which was accepted by council, also recommended the public works department cancel it’s automatic purchasing of some supplies for a savings of about $60,000. Thompson has also found a local supplier of rock salt which will save about $2,000 a year.

The public works department will use two summer students instead of three, saving $4,194 and hours of a cemetery maintenance person will be reduced from eight hours a day to six hours per day saving nearly $6,000.

Thompson also suggested carefully monitoring the amount of water used in the town. Right now 17 per cent of the water used from the system is lost and doesn’t bring in revenue. He suggests tracking everything from watering plants to how much water is used in fire training. He says it would be possible then, for example, to charge back the cost to the fire department – 40 per cent of which is paid by the Township of Enniskillen – to gain extra revenue.

Mayor John McCharles praised the report saying “this shows there can be some savings if we look for them.