AFTER seeing the region covered in a blanket of what seemed like never-ending snow over the last two winters, Scottish Borders Council is now readying its resources as forecasters predict we’re in for more of the same this year.
The local authority undertakes a winter service on 3,000km of local road network and has taken various steps to make efficiencies and produce savings in the way it operates.
This follows the presentation of the Review of Winter Service Plan for 2011/12 to the council executive in October.
Preparations have been made throughout the year to alter agricultural tractors used in parks during the summer to suitable vehicles for gritting and snow clearing during the winter.
The aim of this is to increase the flexibility of the existing fleet allowing year round utilisation.
They have a number of quick change attachments allowing the machines to be reconfigured for different purposes including road sweeping and snow blowing.
John Martin, fleet manager at SBC, said: “Following a trial of pedestrian snow blowing attachments in Kelso last year we have now acquired two units which are suitable multifunctional and widely used by street cleansing, parks and roads staff.”
“The machines are easily manoeuvrable and the straight forward attachments can be changed in less than a minute.
“The same machine used for street cleaning or grass cutting can be deployed as a snow plough suitable for clearing and gritting pavements in winter.
“These machines are highly versatile and offer us a wide range of options.”
The amount of grit salt available when winter hit hard in 2009 and 2010 was a big issue and supplies often ran short leaving some routes treacherous.
Addressing this, Kenny Hastings, neighbourhood operations manager, commented: “We have 18,500 tonnes of salt in stock which represents 35 days coverage according to the plan from the government.
“We operate a salt management system through which we top up every week in normal conditions to maintain this level.
“We have seven people on nightshift on a rota basis for SBC roads from November 1 to March 31, all of our gritters have been checked and calibrated and they are ready for the winter season.”
A survey of grit bins has been undertaken and Dave Richardson, asset manager, added: “We consulted with the public in 2010 and carried out a risk analysis rating on salt bins in the Borders.
“We currently have 830 bins in place in rural and urban settings and have created a full database and mapping record for the location of each one.”
SBC has considered the following in the risk analysis: the number of properties in the area; the steepness of the road; distance to the next bin?; any special features i.e. steps; is the location in shade, where frost is likely to be more prolonged?; is the bin at a sharp bend or a junction?; is the bin near sheltered housing, a health centre, or a school?
Dave continued: “We are now considering the requests for additional bins, made by the public, against our scoring matrix and will merge all of this information together to identify the top priority locations for our 830 bins.
“The council’s executive agreed that the number of bins will not be increased, and we may need to make changes to some locations.
“We aim to have completed the merging of the information and scoring by the middle of November.”
Jim Fraser, SBC’s emergency planning officer, has been working with a team of officers to present plans for ‘Resilient Communities’ to community councils.
Resilient Communities is an initiative supported by local, Scottish, and the UK Governments.
It looks at communities and individuals harnessing and developing local responses and expertise to help themselves during an emergency in a way which complements the response of the emergency responders.
Jim explained: “We have been attending community council meetings in all areas and have held public meetings where local residents have expressed an interest in this concept.
“We have many more planned throughout November and are very keen to share this initiative with volunteer groups.”
Councillor Jim Fullarton, executive member for environment and infrastructure, said: “The council has worked hard to prepare for the winter months.
“We plan to provide regular updates on what we are doing and also how the public can prepare themselves from a domestic perspective.
“We have all observed and learned things from the past two winters and we can all take responsibility for being aware and ready to deal with most weather conditions.
“We encourage the public to listen to local radio or go to www.scotborders.gov.uk for updates on weather and road conditions during the winter months.”