TIMMINS -- Anticipation has been brewing for Timmins to have its first semi-automated pothole patcher machine – the Python 5000 -- maintaining city roads.

City roads supervisor Mario Vandal accompanied one of his workers on the machine's first day of work Wednesday. He said staff are still getting used to the new machine, but there are plenty of places to practise.

"We're excited to try it out and free up some bodies to help us get some of our potholes filled and keep our citizens happy," Vandal said.

The $500,000 Python 5000 was a must-have for the city, he said, since it's essentially an all-in-one machine that needs just one person to operate it.

The traditional system for pothole maintenance requires several people to shovel asphalt and pat it down, plus several vehicles to move the workers and materials.

But the new machine can do all of that with a single operator, plus clear debris with high-pressure and spray a tack coat to keep the asphalt in place.

"The proper compaction will make the difference," Vandal said.

"You can never replace the human element, but the biggest aspect is now we free up three or four more bodies to do other work that needs to be done."

Drivers passing by the machine as it patched up potholes along Government Road lingered to watch it work.

City councillor Joe Campbell also popped by to see it in action, saying while it arrived late in the pothole season, it will be a major help in maintaining hundreds of kilometres of paved roads for years to come.

"With the freeze-thaw cycles that we have in this area, northern Ontario, it's difficult to keep the roads from developing potholes," Campbell said.

"The quicker we can fill them with this machine, which obviously is quicker than the old method, it's going to be a great benefit to trying to keep our roads drivable.