The area’s road and bridge maintenance contract is shifting to a new company as of next month. (Facebook photo)

Area getting a new road maintenance contractor

The Dawson Group takes over next month

The provincial highway system stretching from the Houston area along Hwy. 16 through Smithers to the Hazeltons and up Hwy. 37 North is to have a new contractor looking after road and bridge maintenance as of next month.

Dawson Road Maintenance, which is headquartered in Kamloops and which looks after roads and bridges in three other regions in B.C., will replace Billabong Road and Bridge Maintenance, the company that has had the maintenance contract since 2004.

Once known as Interior Roads, the name was changed to Dawson Road Maintenance this spring to reflect it being part of the larger Dawson Group, a corporate entity that includes general contracting and construction arms.

The company has been the longtime road and bridge maintenance contractor for the central and south Cariboo regions for years and first expanded to the north this June, replacing Yellowhead Road & Bridge North Peace Ltd. in the North Peace region.

Its contract for this region known as Service Area 25 is for 10 years, the standard length of road and bridge maintenance contracts negotiated by the provincial government.

It covers 186 kilometres of Hwy. 16, 221 kilometres of Hwy. 37 North, the highway into Stewart which is Hwy. 37A and many secondary roads.

Dollar values for this and other recently-negotiated maintenance contracts have yet to be released but all new contracts now require increased winter maintenance standards and services.

These include:

— increased communication with the public concerning rapidly changing road conditions during severe weather events and other incidents affecting travel on B.C. roads.

— returning Winter Class A highways to bare pavement within 24 hours of a winter weather event ending at pavement temperatures of -9 C or warmer, when de-icing chemical use is safe and effective. The previous standard was 48 hours.

— increasing patrol frequency to 90 minutes on a Class A highway during a winter storm. When a weather event is forecasted to occur, increase the patrol frequency to four hours. The previous standard was 24 hours.

Under the new agreements being signed, a contractor is also required to be more proactive prior to a winter weather event occurring and to spread anti-icing chemicals prior to the weather event.

While the contract is shifting to a new company, there won’t be any impact on workers, says Wayne Kemp, a business agent with Local 115 of the International Union of Operating Engineers which represents Billabong’s employees.

A successorship clause in a contract recently negotiated with Billabong ensures the agreement carries over to any new employer, he said.

“So there won’t be any changes,” Kemp added.

“We also have a long-standing and good relationship with the Dawson Group elsewhere,” Kemp said, adding it will bring a different management style to operations within the region.

Billabong’s current unionized workforce numbers 30 regular employees and up to 50 seasonal ones depending upon the demands for snow clearing and road maintenance during the winter months, he said.

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