Merulla 'aggressively pursuing' compensation for snow plow service

Hamilton is still buzzing about the inconsistent snow plow service last week.
City councillor Sam Merulla wants compensation from private plow operators who failed to plow city streets last week. (J.P. Moczulski/Canadian Press)

A week after a storm covered Hamilton with its first big snow of the season, city councillor Sam Merulla says he's still fielding complaints about inconsistent snow plow service last week. In response, he and other councillors want compensation from contracted plows and possibly to have those contracts terminated.

"Built into our contracts are performance clauses," Merulla explained. "The private drivers are paid daily to be on standby. When we needed them, they were nowhere to be found so the penalty aspect of those contracts needs to be aggressively pursued."

The city's public works department has assigned Bryan Shynal, director of operations for public works, and Darrell Smith, manager of roads operations and maintenance, to review last week's service. Shynal said they expect to finish their review by the end of the week and present their recommendations to improve service to council early next week.

"Obviously there are some issues that need to be solved," he said. "If there are some root causes we need to deal with them in the way that's most appropriate based on the information we have. It's premature to say what that may be yet."

Both Shynal and Merulla agreed the primary concern is improving service immediately to avoid a repeat of last week, when many sidestreets remained unplowed for days after the storm.

But eventually, Merulla said, the city needs to decide how to compensate for the lack of service, whether that means a refund from the contractors or terminating their contracts and finding someone new.

"There's pretty universal angst being felt not only by the councillors but also the community," he said.

"First we need to fix the problem. Second, we need to pursue some kind of compensation."