Whether you like it or not, winter is on its way.
The City of Kawartha Lakes has been going through its service delivery with a fine-toothed comb over the last several months as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic carries into the snowy season.
One major factor in how the municipality rolls out its winter services, such as snow plowing, is that many seasonal residents and snowbirds are staying put.
“We have about 25,000 seasonal residents — I suspect a large portion of those will remain in our community over the winter. That’s a 25 per cent increase in our overall population,” chief administrative officer Ron Taylor told council on Tuesday.
“It’s something we want to monitor. Especially with most located in rural or smaller centres, and with that, there may be other service expectations or constraints.”
Taylor told council that recruitment for winter services hasn’t been an issue this year.
“I know our recruitment for winter control, which we’ve struggled on in recent years, we’ve got ahead of this year and we’re in really good shape in a full complement perspective,” Mayor Andy Letham told reporters on a conference call on Wednesday.
“It’s great news. It will allow us to accommodate a few things we might not have in the past. In certain areas, we’ve brought in contractors, but we may not need to do that this year with a full staff this winter.”
Letham said the municipality will ‘do what it needs to do’ to make adjustments for the winter months.
“It’s a different level of service. I can’t say we have the capacity right now, we have the capacity to do the regular level of service. But we are having discussions that the regular level of service might not be enough this winter. If we have to, we will make those adjustments from a budget perspective.”
“We’ll do what we have to do to keep our residents safe.”
He speculated that it might mean more sidewalk clearing or snowbank clearing in the downtown areas.
“We would be trying to accommodate the people who are here for the winter. It’s really just a wait-and-see. We’ve tried to go slow and steady and not get too far ahead of it — not knowing what’s coming up in the next few weeks or months.”
Taylor said staff will continue to review all services while focusing on staff safety during the pandemic.
He also told council the municipality is looking at contingencies should the area get set back to a modified Stage 2 of reopening under the provincial guidelines like Toronto and Ottawa recently have.
Letham said he wasn’t sure what the exact contingencies were but felt it would likely mean municipal facility closures again.
“If we go into a Stage 2, we have facilities that are open which includes some of our arenas,” he said. “I know some of the areas in Stage 2 have banned hockey in their arenas, so we would have to look at what that means for us.”
In the short-term, the mayor also urged residents to follow all health guidelines set out by the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit for Halloween participation.
“Halloween is not my event to cancel or approve,” Letham told reporters. “If you’re not comfortable opening your door on Halloween, then don’t.”