Snow removal cheaper in-house: Port Hawkesbury mayor

The mayor of Port Hawkesbury said his town saved money and had better snow removal and road patching services since they stopped outsourcing and started training their own employees to do the work instead.

Mayor Billy Joe MacLean said the town saved $120,000 last winter

The mayor of Port Hawkesbury says snow removal services improved after getting town employees to do the work. (CBC News)

The mayor of Port Hawkesbury said his town saved money and had better snow removal and road patching service since they stopped outsourcing and started training their own employees to do the work instead.

Billy Joe MacLean shared his experience at the annual meeting of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in Winnipeg.

"We're doing twice the job as the contractor. We saved $60,000 in a bad winter, the first year we took over. We saved $65,000 in another bad winter, the winter before last. Then we saved $120,000 last winter, which was really nice," said MacLean.

'Happy with their work'

MacLean said his town made the switch from contractor to town employees after residents complained about the quality of snow plowing. Once the contract expired, the town trained its own employees, upgraded equipment and did the work themselves.

"It was trial and error but it wound up that the people are proud of them, the streets are done much better and it's transparency at it's highest. They're dedicated and happy with their work."

The town stopped most of its contracted snow removal work in 2014. The previous year, with contractors, their snow removal budget was $350,000. Once they ceased using contractors and began using in-house, that cost fell to $216,000.

Garbage is next

The mayor said, in order for the system to be successful, there needs to be a solid level of trust between employees, their union and the municipality.

MacLean said in the past several years, his town has not had one single grievance. 

"We're moving on to garbage and any other service we think our employees can handle. And by the way, we've hired only one more employee with all the changes we made," said MacLean.

In-house emerging trend

"We're now putting money into a reserve account and saving money and getting a much better job done than the contractors we had working for us before," he said.

A 2016 study by the Columbia Institute's Centre for Civic Governance found municipalities returning to in-house services to be an emerging trend.

The report examined 15 Canadian case studies and in 12 instances, cost savings was listed as a reason to in-source. Eight of the 15 cities cited problems with contractors as being a reason to switch back.

With files from Pam Berman