Poor travelling conditions have caused many drivers in the East Kootenay to express frustration with Mainroad Contracting, the service hired by the province to maintain the roads.
Condemnation of Mainroad’s work has been rampant on local social media pages, and Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett was heard criticizing Mainroad on The Drive, a Cranbrook radio station, last Thursday, December 4th.
“We went through same thing last year,” Bennett said, adding that there is no valid excuse. “Mainroad needs to do something about it.”
Bennett said solutions are currently being discussed with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, the governing body which awards the servicing contract.
To respond to the complaints, Mainroad hosted a meeting in Cranbrook on Friday, December 5th.
“There’s been a lot of misinformation and lots of comments, and it was time to rebuff some of it and put some facts to the reality,” Al Sander, general manager at Mainroad East Kootenay, told The Valley Echo.
He said the Ministry of Transportation conducted 80 audits in the East Kootenay over the past two weeks, and just two measured beneath the provincial standard.
Sander said Mainroad has taken no missteps so far this winter, and doesn’t believe that a competing agency could have performed better.
According to Sander, last winter, and so far this season, precipitation in the East Kootenay has been abnormally intense.
“When you get that type of a rainstorm and that type of a flash freeze, you’re really at the mercy of Mother Nature.”
Asked about Mr. Bennett’s comments on the poor performance of Mainroad, Sander disagreed.
“He has his beliefs, but I don’t take my direction from him,” he said. “We take our direction from the transport ministry and their local reps, and that’s who orchestrates the contract and holds us to the standards of the contract.”
He said the contract that Mainroad is bound to was set out by the Ministry of Transportation, and according to them, the contractual obligations are being fulfilled.
Mainroad’s current ten-year contract for the East Kootenay will be up for renewal in September 2016. He said the new contract will likely span ten years as well.
The Facebook group “Taking Back East Kootenay Highways”, which more than 1,500 members have joined, has been created to oust Mainroad. A petition is circulating through the group to see the legislative assembly of B.C. remove Mainroad as the East Kootenay contractor.
Sander said Mainroad cannot see the content of the group, but is aware of its existence and purpose. He said the social media avenues for Mainroad to communicate with taxpayers are currently under discussion with the province.
Asked how best to communicate frustration with Mainroad, Mr. Sander said it depends on the nature of the complaint, adding that “anybody who calls, we talk to them — as long as the people come forward in a respectful manner.”