Port Hawkesbury plows cost-savings back into town

Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia

Canadian winters can pack a punch. And when the snow and ice hits, snow removal services are vital to help dig us out. But residents of Port Hawkesbury, a town on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, were were not satisfied with the quality of snow plowing services provided by a private contractor in their community. So in 2014, the town decided to phase out the private contracts and make the responsibility public.

"Our workforce was very interested in doing this and they had a sense of responsibility to our citizens,” Maris Freismanis, Port Hawkesbury’s CAO, told the CBC. "Our employees are taxpayers in this town as well and they recognize that this service was a benefit to everybody." 

Since the transition, the town has not had a single issue with service, according to the mayor, Billy Joe MacLean. “The streets are done much better and it's transparency at its highest. They're dedicated and happy with their work."

Town finds big savings

Not only did the municipal staff improve the quality of snow removal services in Port Hawkesbury, they saved the town big money in the process. In 2013, the total snow removal budget under private contracting was $350,000. This dropped to $216,000 in 2014 when most of the service was brought in house, a cost savings of $134,000. The town continued to see more savings as the snow removal budget continued to shrink in following years, down to $190,000 in 2015, roughly half the price of the private service. Council is funneling the savings directly back into the town. "We're now putting money into a reserve account and saving money and getting a much better job done than the contractors we had working for us before," said Mayor MacLean.

Garbage collection is next

With the success of the municipality taking back snow removal services, the town has set its sights on garbage collection. "We're moving on to garbage and any other service we think our employees can handle,” says MacLean. “And by the way, we've hired only one more employee with all the changes we made.”