By Paul O’Malley
Councillors in the Ballina municipal district want to see the expansion of Mayo County Council’s winter gritting programme.
During a discussion at last week’s monthly meeting, Cllr Michael Loftus called for the provision of an extra gritting lorry for the Ballina area and a smaller gritter to cover smaller towns such as Killala and Crossmolina.
He highlighted the R315 road at Moygownagh as an area that was not gritted during last month’s cold snap when many roads were impassable. He said the addition of extra resources would ensure the regional roads could be gritted and cited the work that was done in Kerry to ensure that 80% of their local roads were covered.
Cllr John O’Hara said a quad bike with a shaker to spread grit could be added to the council fleet to ensure housing estates get gritted. He added that it was not fair to ask people to spread salt using a bucket and their hands.
Meanwhile, Cllr Jarlath Munnelly added that a tender should be taken out with local contractors to allow them to spread grit next winter if necessary. He said it could be a similar process to the tendering of hedge cutting.
However, the council’s Director of Services Tom Gilligan argued that there is more complexity to the situation. He explained that Mayo has a vast road network of around 6,500 kilometres and given the events of the cold snap, where the rain froze in the early hours of December 17, it would not have been possible to grit all of the county’s roads with 100 machines.
Mr Gilligan said he had discussed the situation with his counterpart in Kerry and was told that Kerry County Council operates with similar constraints to Mayo. He said he is not against using local contractors but Mayo County Council use a very strict process and that all gritting operations undergo a very precise calibration. Cllr Annie May Reape suggested that stockpiles of grit be provided at different locations around the municipal district in advance of bad. weather. Mr Gilligan said there would be some scope for this to work.