The Dawson Group, the new road and bridge maintenance contractor in this area, has been buying new equipment for its work here and in other areas where it has maintenance contracts. (Dawson Group photo)

Business as usual for new road maintenance company

But faster snow clearing now required

The company now in charge of road and bridge maintenance on provincial roads in the Houston area is promising a seamless transition from the previous company.

It’ll be mostly business as usual, says Robert Koopmans from the Dawson Group, the Kamloops-based company which took over Oct. 1 from Billabong Road and Bridge Maintenance.

Billabong had the maintenance contract since 2004 but lost out to the Dawson Group in a bid for a new 10-year contract with the provincial government.

Former Billabong employees belonging to the International Union of Operating Engineers automatically slide over to the Dawson Group.

“Of course, no one has to come work for us if they don’t want to,” said Koopmans in adding there are some senior management changes.

He said the Dawson Group negotiated leases at some locations used by Billabong and found other locations when needed.

“As for equipment, what I can tell you is we have spent millions on new equipment,” Koopmans added of the company’s four operating areas — one in the northeast and two in the south and central Cariboo as well as here.

Personnel and equipment will continue to be sent to the Houston area from a yard in Smithers and Dawson will also maintain yards in the Hazeltons and at Carnaby, west of the Hazeltons, and a re-fueling and storage site at Meziadin.

And it will be re-opening a yard Billabong once had in Stewart at the far western end of Dawson’s road responsibilities.

“Given what we all know about the snow there, it seemed the most appropriate measure,” said Koopmans of the winter conditions in and around Stewart.

Although the shift will be seamless, Koopmans said motorists will notice a change in road clearing during the winter because of new standards being written into every maintenance contract in the province.

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.

Koopmans also said vehicles now have GPS tracking equipment installed to better provide the company and the province exact information as to where and when they are operating.

“We think this will increase efficiency so that they can be operated in the best possible way,” he said of Dawson’s equipment.

Dawson has had the road and bridge maintenance contracts in the south and central Cariboo for years, and made its first venture north when it took over a northeastern B.C. contract this spring.

The dollar value of the contract here, as well as for every other maintenance contract in the province, will be released once negotiations for all of them have concluded.

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