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West Kelowna agrees on multi-million dollar road maintenance deal

The District of West Kelowna has come to terms on a new road maintenance services contract just weeks before the current road maintenance agreement is scheduled to end.

HMC Services Inc. will be responsible for looking after the district’s roads for the next five years. In return, West Kelowna will pay the contractor a minimum of $1.73 million annually.

Argo Industries Ltd. has been responsible for maintaining West Kelowna roads since 2007 through an Offer of Assistance from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, which helped the young municipality through its first five years of incorporation.

“This is the last scheduled big piece of transition from provincial and Regional District governance to municipal governance,” said Mayor Doug Findlater.

The mayor added the agreement is a “good deal” for West Kelowna, and will have minimal impact on the taxpayer.

Coun. Bryden Winsby noted the deal was made just in time.

“This was, if not an 11th hour exercise, certainly damn close to it. There were plan bs and plan cs. I really congratulate (staff) on what they’ve done,” said Winsby.

Initially the Westside looked at providing the service in-house; however, quickly realized the substantive costs associated with that option.

Road maintenance was the top concern in the West Kelowna’s citizens’ survey this year. Road issues in general have topped the list for the last five years.

“With that, council gave us the direction to seek an enhanced level of service, which is what you see in this contract,” said chief administrative officer Jason Johnson.

The new agreement will allow the contractor to focus on local roads. Previously, with the service from Argo Industries Ltd., Highway 97 maintenance was the priority.

Road maintenance is the fourth highest budget item in West Kelowna behind fire services, police services and transit.

According to a report presented to DWK council Tuesday, there will be no anticipated tax increase in 2013 as a result of the new road maintenance contract.

Although the annual price tag of the new contract is aimed at $1.73 million, it could potentially be higher if Mother Nature chooses.

In the case of a “hard winter” that exceeds 15 snowfall and 20 freezing events, the cost could increase by $200,000 higher. The charge could raise more during an "exceptionally hard winter."

However, the district has the option of reducing summer maintenance activities in an effort to maintain the total cost within the annual price.

Although the contract is five years long, director of engineering and operations Gary O’Rourke is optimistic that HMC Services Inc. and West Kelowna will be able to work together beyond that.

“In our discussions with the contractor, both parties said, on a regular basis, we really want to build up a relationship—hopefully something longer term,” said O’Rourke.

Once the service begins, a call-centre service will be put in place for residents to report road maintenance issues.

HMC Services Inc. is also the road maintenance provider for the District of Lake Country; in 2011 the business was named the Deputy Minister’s contractor of the year for highways maintenance.

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com

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