Winter Road Maintenance Information Coming to the Township Website

At the last Council meeting, a split decision approved the allocation of $11,300 from the 2020 operating budget to be used to track road works.  Existing GPS systems available in public works vehicles and some investment in software development will allow the township to provide public works information to the public via a link on the township website.  The report was provided at the request of Mayor McFadden who receives many calls from residents during winter storm events asking when a specific road will be plowed.   The intention was to allow residents to obtain this information directly through technology.

Tracking technology for public use is currently used in some larger jurisdictions including Toronto, Brampton and Hamilton, where a plow tracking system identifies the delayed location of a plow using colour coding to indicate when specific streets were serviced.  Real time information is used internally, but staff expressed concern about making current, specific winter road work information available to the public based on challenging results experienced by other municipalities.

In the report, staff expressed concern about the proposal to make this information public after discussions with the township’s solicitor, the primary issue being liability.  The report suggested providing this information to the public presented a double-edged sword: in some cases the information could protect the municipality from liability but in others it could have the opposite effect.  If residents are using this information to make travel decisions, the accuracy of this information becomes paramount.  A strongly worded disclaimer may mitigate this risk.  Staff was also uncomfortable with the additional public scrutiny this technology might create.  Operational decisions regarding winter maintenance activities are based on a variety of factors and they may be questioned, requiring an increase in the documentation of rational and decision-making which would form part of the municipal record.

After much discussion, the motion approved by Council was for an expenditure of $11,300 to cover a full year of tracking covering plowing operations on a time delay across the township on a link to the township website.   It was not clear that this expenditure would actually cover the costs of the motion as the staff report indicated this amount would cover a trial period ending in April 2020.  Comments from the supplier during the meeting about their vision for the service indicated more development would be required to meet the requirements envisioned by the Mayor.  The pilot program is expected to be operational by the end of the month.  KG

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