Westmeath County Council has put in place a plan for the winter maintenance of the county’s roads, and this was presented to the councillors at last Monday’s meeting.
Also, the council has put together an information leaflet on home winter maintenance which will be sent out to every home in the county “within the next few weeks”. Anyone who hasn’t received one by the end of October can pick one up at any of the four council buildings in Castlepollard, Mullingar, Kilbeggan and Athlone.
The council is to prioritise 518km of road within the county for gritting, approximately a quarter off all the road length in the county of just over 2,000km. This figure is up from 450km last year, and Westmeath has enough rock salt in storage in Mullingar and Athlone to cope with 14 nights’ useage in a row.
Included in the 518 kms are all the motorway and national routes in the county, as well as 115km of secondary and local roads. Most towns and villages will have their approach roads gritted except for Finea, Fore, Streete, and Ballynacarrigy in the north of the county, as well as Castledaly, Mount Temple, Streamstown, Ballinagore, Castletown Geoghegan, and Dysart in the south. A map showing all the prioritised routes is on the council’s website.
“The key aim of this policy is to keep major routes safe and as free as possible from hazardous road conditions,” said the report’s author, Michael Connolly. He went on to explain how the timing of sending out the county’s nine gritting trucks was “all-important as they must be got out before the freezing starts”.
His forecasting was aided by four weather stations spread over the county, with one more with CCTV to follow, and he estimated his forecasting was “85 per cent accurate”.
“We predict an effective response for this winter,” he said. The council will announce on its website each day which routes are to be gritted that night.
In addition to the nine trucks, the council has 12 snow blades to attach for heavier weather.
After Mr Connolly’s presentation, Cllr Paul Daly enquired as to whether there would be signs put on the side of the road to indicate where gritting had ceased, and cited the junction at Wallaces in Dalystown where the gritter would go left for Tyrellspass, and travellers for Ballinagore could be surprised by the frosty road again. However, Mr Connolly deemed this unworkable due to the number of such signs that might be needed and the fact that motorists could begin to rely on them everywhere.
He was unable to guarantee Cllr Ken Glynn that the roads outside all schools in the county would be gritted.
The leaflet includes information on how to insulate pipes, reduce the risk of frozen pipes, what to do if a pipe bursts and how to make a temporary repair, what tools to have around the house, and a collection of useful emergency numbers.