PICTOU – County council has agreed to send a letter opposing the province’s decision to cut staff at its road facility in Lyons Brook.
Council responded to the request by outgoing council member Jim Turple, who recited a letter from Pictou West MLA Karla MacFarlane to Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Geoff MacLellan that decried the move to cut the dispatcher positions in Lyons Brook and centralize the service from a call centre in Cape Breton. She said the cuts mean two people with more than 30 years of service are losing their jobs.
“I am dismayed that the dispatch position has been cut in Pictou West,” she said in the letter. “There is simply no way that we will retain the same level of service from a call centre in Cape Breton.”
She said the dispatchers have been vital as a first contact for the public and for her regarding road issues on a varied system that includes Highway 104, a causeway and various paved and gravel roads in her constituency.
TIR spokesperson Brian Taylor confirmed the cuts and the work’s immediate transfer to the department’s MacLellan’s Brook facility, not Cape Breton.
“Where possible, positions will be combined within counties in all areas,” he said. “The department is always looking for ways to be more efficient to allow bases to put as much of their resources as possible onto our roads during the winter. For Pictou County, there will be a change in that all dispatching for the area will now be located in the MacLellan’s Brook base.”
Turple said the dispatchers have been able to target when to plow a road during medical emergencies.
“Valuable minutes, probably hours, will be lost,” he said. “These individuals were of great value to us.”
Taylor said dispatchers will remain in the counties they serve, where they know the roads best.
“They will be operating as they always have, interacting with their crews out on the road,” he said.
Coun. Robert Parker agreed moving a service away from an area makes it less effective.
“You never gain when decisions are farther away,” he said, while noting the network of fire departments in the county and how they collaborate in response to emergencies.
“They know where to go,” he said.
Parker listed the myriad of services lost in the area that includes closing a school in River John, gutting services at the hospital in Pictou, jeopardizing the future of schools in Pictou and closing the deed office in Pictou.
“I don’t know what more than can take from Pictou West,” he said.
Coun. Leonard Fraser said losing the staff will worsen the problem of missing road signs and civic address postings in the county.