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Cherryville unhappy with road contractor after school bus hits ditch

After school bus hits ditch, Cherryville residents concerned about new road maintenance contractor
After a school bus ended up stuck in a ditch, questions are being asked in Cherryville about whether the North Okanagan's new road maintenance contractor has the equipment to do the job.

After a school bus ended up stuck in a ditch, questions are being asked in Cherryville about whether the North Okanagan’s new road maintenance contractor has the equipment to do the job.

AIM Roads is defending its performance and said it does have enough equipment and subcontractors to properly clear the roads.

It blames the recent problems in Cherryville on staff not plowing roads according to priority.

READ MORE: Rockfall along Highway 97 in Okanagan, but traffic not being affected

Residents in Cherryville have not been impressed with AIM Roads, which was awarded a 10-year provincial contract for the Okanagan Shuswap region earlier this year.

“It’s as if they have a money mandate instead of a service mandate,” said Cherryville resident Bill McLean.

“The biggest thing, especially this time of year, is to react right away to snow, not wait until it gets to four inches or whatever their mandate is.”

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Local residents believe the problem is a lack of equipment.

“Certainly our crews know what they are doing but they don’t have the equipment to be able to get on scene as quickly as they were able to in the past,” said Cherryville’s area director Hank Cameron.

The issue came to a head on Friday morning when a school bus, with 10 children on board, pulled over to allow an oncoming vehicle to pass and ended up stuck in the snow and partially in the ditch.

Fatal crashes prompt petition for median on Highway 97A
Fatal crashes prompt petition for median on Highway 97A

“We had a school bus in the ditch because they didn’t have equipment to plow. We were lucky that nobody was hurt this time but Monday morning could be a different story,” resident Lee Laviolette said.

“We need equipment. Somebody is going to get killed.”

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The school district said the children were never in danger and were picked up by their parents.

AIM Roads admits it didn’t meet maintenance standards for the class of roads that includes school bus routes during the most recent storm. A Cherryville school bus ended up partially in the ditch on Friday morning.
AIM Roads admits it didn’t meet maintenance standards for the class of roads that includes school bus routes during the most recent storm. A Cherryville school bus ended up partially in the ditch on Friday morning. Lee Laviolette

However, AIM admits during this last storm it didn’t meet maintenance standards in Cherryville for the class of roads that includes school bus routes and more than 10 cm of snow built-up in some places.

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The problem, AIM said, was not a lack of equipment but that some lower priority routes were plowed first.

“Our route deployment plans are specifically designed to ensure that the school bus routes should be plowed in advance of the morning and afternoon school bus (runs). Had these routes been followed, the incident (with the school bus) would likely not have occurred,” AIM Roads director of operations and maintenance Greg Ehman wrote in a statement to Global News.

In general, Ehman said the contractor has enough equipment and subcontractors to do the job and in most cases around the region is meeting or exceeding service requirements.

However, Ehman said AIM is also planning to improve service in Cherryville by sending more equipment to the area and providing staff around the region with additional training.