“Mayo County Council coped as well as it was possible with the resources available to it with these unprecedented weather conditions,” according to acting county manager Joe Beirne. The top executive in the council made these remarks at the annual budget meeting of the council where he outlined the efforts made by the council to ensure the county got through the recent cold snap as well as possible. Mr Beirne told the meeting that since the onset of the first frosts at the end of November the council has carried out more than 60 gritting runs on 900km of national and regional roads, while for the total winter season of 2008/2009 it carried out 85 gritting runs (the winter season lasts until April ).
He went on to say that the council has used a total of 4,500 tons of salt so far this winter season since staff began gritting roads, compared to the 4,900 tons used over the whole of the last winter season.
He also told the councillors it is expected that the cost of the winter maintenance programme will now amount to at least €1.5 million and these funds will have to be found as part of the 2010 roadworks programme. Mr Beirne also outlined the steps taken by staff over the holiday period to ensure they provided the best service possible, which included sourcing additional salt, mixing salt with quarry grit to extend the life of the salt supply, setting up a 24 hour help line, which has dealt with 200 calls from people, the management team of the council meeting three times during the holiday period since December 28 to implement changes and monitor the situation, and arranging for the area staff to deal with problems on local road networks.
Michael Monaghan, acting director of services for roads for Mayo County Council, told the meeting: “The frost set in on November 27, and since December 10 we’ve only had three days of a break where there was none, and we’ve been out constantly since. We have 17 routes being gritted by 11 large gritters and six smaller ones. Each route takes from three to four hours to complete, and we have 967km of national and regional roads to keep gritted and because of the nature of it, we have to do these early in the morning, between 4am and 5am, and late at night after 11pm.” Mr Monaghan also outlined the severity of the situation compared to other years. “Last year we did 85 runs, the year before 57, and for the six years before that the average was 47, and we are at 62 runs already,” he said. “We use 1,400 tons per week, and when we got to order in for salt three weeks before Christmas it was €60 per ton cost, and now in conditions like we’ve had that can go up to €200 per ton.” He also told the members that the council had already spent €90,000 on the salting and gritting programmes.
The councillors thanked both Mr Beirne and Mr Monaghan for the information and also thanked the hard working council staff on the ground who did their best throughout out the cold weather. Numerous councillors also spoke out about the great sense of community that had come back to the fore during the difficult conditions with people helping each other, pulling cars up hills, or just checking on their neighbours to make sure that they were ok.