Council demands answers about shelved tablets

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Westlock County councillors are questioning why tablet notebook computers, with a reported price tag of $70,000, have not been used as part of the municipality’s grader-tracking system.

At the start of the April 11 council meeting, Coun. Mel Kroetsch requested administration prepare a report to explain why the original decision to put the tablet computers in the graders was never implemented.

“Earlier in our term, we ordered a GPS system so that the grader operators could report deficient areas on our road systems,” Kroetsch said.

“The main intention of that system was for the grader operators, who are on the road continuously and know every bit of the road system in the county, to make it simple for them to report into the office all the deficiencies.”

CAO Leo Ludwig would not confirm the cost of the tablets and told the Westlock News that the full costs would have to wait for the report, which will be presented to council at its May 23 meeting.

“They would have been a maintenance headache,” he said.

“Because of the complexity of using them and the environment in which they would be used and the way that the graders are operated, it is not an effective or efficient way of reporting road conditions.

“They’re not designed to be in that kind of environment. They would require that the grader operator cease operations to enter the data.”

The system in question was ordered in two parts — a tablet-computer system was intended to report deficiencies on the roadways and a GPS system would track where graders were operating. The GPS system was installed, but the tablets have remained on the shelf.

Currently, road deficiencies are reported to administration over the radio.

Reeve Don Savage noted that the tablets would have been at the mercy of the elements if they were installed into graders.

“The biggest problem with the tablets is that if they’re left in the grader overnight in -25C, they’re almost junk,” said Savage.

“You just try leaving your cellphone in your car in a 20 below night. You can’t leave that stuff out in that kind of weather.”

He recalled that the original decision to purchase the tablets was made by former director of infrastructure Bill Mills, though with the amount of turnover the county has had in administrative staff over the last few years, determining who decided what and when was a bit of a mystery.

“There’s been so many changes in management, it’s hard to point the finger at anybody,” said Savage.

Coun. Bud Massey suggested that if the county was not going to use the tablets for the graders then it should find another use for them.

“It’s amazing that after spending thousands — and I’m going from memory that it was excess of $70,000 — that these tablets have sat on the shelf for all this time? Perhaps there is a way we can utilize them,” he said. “We have misspent thousands of dollars in Westlock County ratepayer’s money if those tablets can’t be utilized for the issue that we were told they were purchased for.”

While the dispute over the tablets continues, Coun. Ron Zadunayski noted that the logging system for GPS is helpful in solving disputes.

“A fellow kept telling me that the road had not been graded in quite some time, so I went to administration and they gave me a read-out of where the machine went and what days it went there,” he said.

Zadunayski said he took that read-out to the ratepayer and pointed out that the machine had gone by his place several times.

“He said

‘Well, I wasn’t home,’” said Zadunayski. “He told me that the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

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