Surge in pothole claims creates response backlog
By the end of November, the City of Greater Sudbury had received 313 pothole claims, roughly double the average annual total, leaving a backlog
As pothole claims against the city mounted, there was a backlog in municipal response.
The City of Greater Sudbury has a service standard of responding to claims within four to six weeks, but City Corporate Services general manager Kevin Fowke said they are taking longer.
A reader informed Sudbury.com of the backlog, complaining of a five-month wait and expecting to receive a response to his claim.
“We are aware that we are above that standard of service,” Fowke told Sudbury.com, noting that while they are working to resolve the issues, they are handling more calls than usual.
About 150 pothole lawsuits are filed in an average year, but by the end of November the number had risen to 313.
Although the adjuster usually does a quick turnaround, city officials spend an average of two to three hours per claim, according to Fowke, to determine the exact location of the pothole in question, when the city knew about it, and what action was taken by officials at that time.
“We had a harsh freeze-thaw in the spring,” Fowke said, noting that the fluctuating temperatures in April and March were particularly harsh and fueled a number of trips on city streets.
About 10 percent of pothole damage ends up being paid for by the city.
“There is a process that the province is outlining, what municipalities need to do to meet minimum maintenance standards and what we need to do to respond to known locations and pothole complaints,” Fowke said.
Successful complainants suffer vehicle damage at pothole spots that the city was aware of and where city officials failed to adequately address the issue within a specified timeframe, which varies by road type.
This, Fowke said, could help explain why the city is enacting temporary pothole-filling measures during the winter months, knowing they won’t last long.
Fowke also attributed a motion from Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc earlier this year to withdraw $6 million from reserves for additional road works as evidence the city is working to mitigate its pothole problem.
These efforts include grit pavers and surface treatments that both extend the life of city streets and prevent potholes and other symptoms of road deterioration.
Potholes can be reported to the city by calling 311 and can also be reported online at 311.greatersudbury.ca or via live chat.
It is these complaints that make up the database the city uses to both respond to public concerns and assess the potential success of pothole claims.
For more information on potholes and city responses, click here. For more information on making claims against the city, click here.
Below are the total number of pothole damage in recent years. Fowke clarified that 2019 was an anomaly stemming from a combination of a difficult freeze-thaw process and increased public awareness of grievance reporting. The annual average is around 150.
- 2017: 132
- 2018: 237
- 2019: 546
- 2020: 152
- 2021: 69
- 2022: 313 (until the end of November)
Tyler Clarke reports on City Hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.