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'Pothole killer' ready to roll and smooth out Caithness roads

By David G Scott

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At a meeting of Wick's community council on Monday an update on road maintenance included the revelation that a JCB Pothole Pro machine has been purchased for use in the county.

Wick and East Caithness councillor Raymond Bremner gave a full update to the Royal Burgh of Wick Community Council (RBWCC) in respect of the progress being made with the Caithness Roads Infrastructure at this week's meeting.

Cllr Bremner explained how he had been sent a video of the JCB Pothole Pro by a local council employee early last year and asked the council’s executive chief officer for Economy and Infrastructure if it was possible to purchase one for Caithness. “I didn’t expect one to be purchased and delivered by Christmas," he said.

"Local workers are being trained to operate the machine and I believe that this will work well with the new hotbox that was purchased earlier. Together, I believe this is an additional capital investment of around £200,000. I’m keen that we continue to look at further machinery investment including plant that recycles tar chippings into hot tar and a new fit-for-purpose road planer."

Christmas present from Highland Council – the new JCB Pothole Pro machine is ready to tackle Caithness potholes.
Christmas present from Highland Council – the new JCB Pothole Pro machine is ready to tackle Caithness potholes.

The councillor said that roads officers had recently stated that all the allocated capital funding for repairs to Caithness roads this financial year, totalling £1.2m, had "been successfully spent". An additional £0.3m of capital funding is now going to be spent before the end of March, taking the total capital funding being spent this year to £1.5m. There has been capital investment in new equipment which includes the JCB Pothole Pro machine being delivered to Caithness two days before Christmas.

Cllr Bremner explained that the council was now concentrating on the Winter Maintenance programme and other revenue works. The extra capital funding to be spent on road resurfacing will be undertaken by a local contractor.

Cllr Raymond Bremner by a road that has been patch filled.
Cllr Raymond Bremner by a road that has been patch filled.

The councillor added “It was important we made sure all the capital money allocated for this year was spent because of the underspend of over £1.5m on roads infrastructure in Caithness over previous years. By the end of this financial year, we will have spent more than two-and-a-half times the previous allocated budget and much more than was actually spent against that allocation.

"There is a similar amount of capital funding allocated for next year. This means that a number of roads due to be done in the next financial year will now be repaired before the end of March."

The council’s roads officers are now working on the next list of roads for next year’s capital programme to be presented to Caithness members at their monthly roads meeting in February. The chair and vice chair of the Association of Community Councils will be in attendance at future monthly roads meetings and an invitation has been accepted by the chair of the Caithness Transport Forum to attend a future ward business meeting and a full update will be delivered to forum members.

Cllr Bremner said: “Increased capital funding also means an increased revenue funding requirement. That will be the next challenge along with finding where we can cleverly realise further capital funding without impacting on other important capital investment programmes like building new schools and essential council services that our communities want.

"We still need continued increased funding, a proper roads strategy and an affordable and realistic programme that continues to recover our roads infrastructure.”

Related article:

Councillor unhappy with 'threatening' tone used by Caithness road campaign group

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