It was a trial by fire, or in this case snow, for Ucluelet’s new public works foreman last week as the town’s first significant snowfall of the year began blanketing local roads a few hours before his first day on the job.
After 15 years of public works service, the district was happy to promote lifelong Ucluelet resident Brent Taron to the foreman position and he officially took the helm on Jan. 15.
“I’m super stoked. It’s pretty surreal for me to make it to where I’ve made it to,” Taron told the Westerly News. “I’ve been planning for this and it’s pretty awesome that I’ve actually achieved it…I would like to focus on the best interests of the town and put those ideas to work.”
He said he and his team made quick work of the Jan. 15’s snowfall, salting and sanding local streets with the BC Ambulance office, fire hall and Seaview Seniors Centre their top priority.
Mainroad Contracting is responsible for the highway into town as well as Peninsula Road to Main Street and down to the Whisky Dock, with the rest being covered by public works.
“We’re responsible for wherever we can get with the crew we have and the resources we have,” Taron said. “We’ve got some good guys on the team and we all know the program to go out and do the best we can to make the town safe.”
Ucluelet mayor Mayco Noel said he was impressed with how the public works team cleared the roads and sidewalks and said he’s confident in Taron’s ability to lead the way.
“I’m counting on him to do a good job,” he said. “Public works is always under the radar of the public eye. Everyone’s very critical and I think that Brent, being a born and raised individual with 15 years of experience under his belt is going to be able to be empowered to make it his in his own way because now he’s the foreman and he’s able to lead the way he wants to.”
He added he was happier with Mainroad’s performance this year after he raised concern over the amount of ice the provincial government’s contractor had left between Ucluelet and the West Coast junction last winter.
“The obvious difference that I see that’s happening is they’re using salt and sand this year. Last year, when they took over the contract, they were relying on a brine,” he said.
Sgt. Steve Mancini of the Ucluelet RCMP said drivers did well during the week’s snowy conditions with only one weather-related crash reported, a single-vehicle collision on Jan. 15 with no serious injuries reported.
“I think people were driving cautiously and stayed home when they could, so that seemed to work out well and hopefully we’re past our brief snowfall,” he said, adding that, while the snow has largely disappeared, drivers should remain diligent in the cold conditions. “A lot of the curves leading out of town are still getting icy and getting slick, so we still have to remain cautious in our driving and, obviously, we still expect snow on Sutton Pass even though it’s melted here in town.”
Tofino’s chief administrative officer Bob MacPherson told the Westerly that Tofino mostly dodged the snowy conditions.
“We didn’t get nearly what they got in Ucluelet,” he said adding no snow fell on the community Wednesday. “We didn’t get a lot of snow. It was not too much to handle. If we’d had a foot of snow, I think that would be a reach for us, but we had an inch or two overnight twice; that’s well within what we can deal with.”
He added the district keeps an eye on the forecast and, if snow is coming, ensures its equipment is ready to go, including a plow that can be installed on the district’s dump truck.
“It’s probably more salt and sanding here than plowing,” he said. “Our foreman is off, so we’ve got another one of our crew [Brad Evans] doing an excellent job in an acting capacity.”
Tofino also avoided a flurry of power outages throughout the West Coast brought on by heavy winds knocking trees onto BC Hydro lines.
BC Hydro spokesperson Karla Louwers said some Tofino properties briefly lost power around 7:40 p.m. on Wednesday and about 314 Hydro customers in Opitsaht and Ahousaht lost power at the same time, though their lights did not come back on until the next day. Louwers said Hitacu lost power from 9:40 p.m. on Wednesday until 3:30 a.m. Thursday morning. Ucluelet’s lights were off from 3:30 a.m. until around 2 p.m Thursday, causing both its secondary and elementary schools to be closed for the day.
“In between 3 a.m. and 3:59 a.m. Thursday morning, Tofino, Ucluelet and the broader area peaked with 2,193 customers out,” Louwers said adding more outages should be expected with winter’s storm season underway. “All of our outages have been weather related and trees have been the culprit…We’re in storm season, so make sure you’re prepared.”