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West Kelowna: Road maintenance contractor president 'not happy' with company's snow removal performance

Joe Wrobel, president and general manager of HMC Services Inc., admitted Tuesday that his company has not done a good enough job removing snow in West Kelowna since it took over Dec. 7, 2012. (Note: The picture above shows Highway 97, which is the responsibility of Argo Industries Ltd. AEL is responsible for local roads within the municipality.) - Wade Paterson/Capital News
Joe Wrobel, president and general manager of HMC Services Inc., admitted Tuesday that his company has not done a good enough job removing snow in West Kelowna since it took over Dec. 7, 2012. (Note: The picture above shows Highway 97, which is the responsibility of Argo Industries Ltd. AEL is responsible for local roads within the municipality.)
— image credit: Wade Paterson/Capital News

Over 1,100 comments have been submitted regarding snow removal and road maintenance in West Kelowna since Dec. 7, 2012.

The majority of phone calls and e-mails have been complaints; 72 comments were complimentary.

The comments were directed at the performance of AEL, a division of HMC Services Inc., which became the district's main road contractor last year.

Joe Wrobel, president and general manager of HMC Services Inc., admitted Tuesday that his company has not done a good enough job so far.

"We're not happy with our performance to date," said Wrobel.

"We don't feel it's due to a lack of efforts, but we know that we're not measured on our effort—we're measured on our results."

The road maintenance contractor president said there have been several issues that resulted in unsatisfactory service including inexperienced operators, new routes and terrain, severe weather and mechanical failure.

He noted the plow mounts on some of the smaller trucks broke while trying to deal with some of the heavy, wet snow in early January. As soon as that happened, AEL brought in other trucks from Golden, but it took time for those trucks to get to West Kelowna, which caused a delay in service.

"We have adjusted some of our equipment and will be doing a complete review of our equipment at the end of the winter, with the idea to make any necessary adjustments for next year."

Wrobel added AEL is working to ensure frequent callers are responded to directly to illustrate their concerns are important to the company.

"I've personally contacted the most frequent caller. Two of the concerns the individual had were ones where I had to take full responsibility (because) of some of the instructions I gave our staff.

"One (concern) was how could we have a sand truck up in the area when there wasn't any need for a sand truck in the area?

"That was partially a direction I gave to the crew: Between storms, patrol the areas, go out and ensure you know what the plow routes are to get more experience—don't just sit back and wait."

The other concern occurred after the resident cleared off the sidewalk in front of his/her house after a snow storm.

"After the storm we showed up again after the snow was nice and crusty and hard. We deposited most of it back on their sidewalk…we thought we were trying to do a good thing and make sure everybody saw us out there, but we actually probably caused more problems than we solved."

Mayor Doug Findlater said another common concern he has heard about is snow being piled in front of driveways.

"I've been familiar with this concern for a number of years…it happens. It's difficult for us to do much when we're dealing with the truck plows," said Wrobel.

"We can deal with some areas, but when there are multiple driveways it becomes very difficult, we basically try to keep half of the snow to one side, half to the other and everybody has to share in it. That's the best we can do."

Several council members thanked Wrobel for his candour and dedication to improve the level of service.

Both the district and Wrobel have indicated they want their business relationship to be long-term.

"We want to ensure it works for both of us; this has to be a partnership, we very much want it to be a partnership," said Wrobel.

The district and AEL continue to ask residents to submit feedback.

Complaints can be submitted to roads@districtofwestkelowna.ca. Residents can also phone in complaints at 778-797-2225 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday. After hours, on weekends and holidays, residents can dial 1-866-353-3136.

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com

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