Editorial: Municipal road crews deserve appreciation not vitriol

It was with great satisfaction that we learned of Central Manitoulin’s road crews being cited as angels for the work they do at all hours of the day and night to help keep the municipal roads under their charge safe for those who travel them to work and play. The accolades were especially welcome as they came on the very heels of a report that crews in the Northeast Town have been coming under profane verbal assaults from winter weary residents.

This has been a real, old fashioned winter, the sort that many of us have become unfamiliar with, thanks to the relatively balmy experiences of the past several years. But make no mistake, those who study these matters with a great degree of effort are cautioning anyone who will listen that nasty weather patterns are going to become all too common in the future.

Small town road crews do not fall on the same pay scales as doctors, lawyers, or most trades people for that matter. But they work long nerve-wracking shifts, often in weather that would give most of us pause before heading out of the driveway.

Municipal councils, being generally recognized as a tight-fisted lot, are not noted for a willingness to pay top dollar wages unless forced into it by circumstance, and most would happily run on a skeleton crew were it not for the mandated reporting and standards inflicted upon them by upper tiers of government. There are rarely any spare bodies on the roster and should an employee fall victim to the ravages of a seasonal virus the impact on work schedules in the midst of a blizzard can be both immediate and significant.

Most, if not all, municipalities follow a standard operating procedure with priorities that dictate roads are cleared first, sidewalks second and then, when the accumulation has abated to allow a breather, snow is removed. This year there has not been a lot of pausing in Mother Nature’s precipitation schedule.

Most citizens might gripe about the pile of snow left at the end of their driveway when the plow goes, but if pushed to the point will express their gratitude for the work being performed, often while they are still warm abed. The vast majority may mutter beneath their breath in dismay, but would never dream of voicing their unjust complaint within hearing distance of the driver of the plow. We know we are being unfair.

But to harangue and abuse a public servant who is doing their job to the best of their abilities under very trying circumstances and within the policies and procedures laid out by those who manage their efforts at a much higher pay grade, lies well beyond the pale.

As this winter season winds down and things begin to return to a more normal circumstance (we fervently hope), let us take a moment to thank the men and women who strive to keep our roads and sidewalks safe to travel. Our municipal employees have been doing an amazing job this winter, they deserve our respect and compassion.