Council dumps purchase of snow removal equipment

$75,000 item was removed from council’s 2015 budget last week

City council has nixed buying equipment to clear snow from city sidewalks, a decision that Coun. Larry Samson branded ‘disgusting.’

The $75,000 item was removed from council’s 2015 budget last week during financial planning, much to Samson’s dismay.

“I have to say how disappointed I am because the people who use this are the people who are our most vulnerable people and don’t have access to a vehicle to get around,” Samson said. “I’m sorry I just find that disagreeable, or disgusting.”

Samson said he was particularly upset because he saw the decision of council as a step backward.

In November, 2014 the previous council approved a policy that the city be responsible for clearing snow from city sidewalks along main roads.

But Mayor Andy Adams said it was never acted upon because the city didn’t have the equipment to do so.

The purchase of that equipment had been put into the 2015 budget by city staff, and Samson wasn’t pleased council last week voted to remove it.

“When we plough our streets, we plough them to the side so we heap the snow on top of the sidewalk to make it even harder,” Samson said. “The snow freezes, the snow turns to slush and it makes it hard for people to push strollers, it makes it hard for people with disabilities, with wheelchairs, and people can’t get around without having to go onto the road and dodge traffic.”

Coun. Ron Kerr said while he’s sympathetic to the situation, having the city clear some sidewalks but not others could be a slippery slope.

“While I understand the plight of people who are house bound during a snow event I think it’s important to do this job for the whole community,” Kerr said. “Recognizing the arterial roads would be important to plough, we’re always going to have someone who lives three blocks or five blocks away from that and they’re going to ask ‘why aren’t you doing our roads?’ I think it’s a never-ending issue.”

The city’s current snow removal bylaw requires commercial, industrial, multi-family residential and institutional premises to clear snow and ice from the sidewalk surrounding their building by 10 a.m. the morning after a snowfall. Single family residential homes, however, are not required by law to clear snow from the sidewalk, but are encouraged to.

The city’s public safety sub committee recently took a second look at that bylaw after a young mother came to council last year to appeal for help after she was stranded in her Hilchey Road home because the sidewalks were impassable.

She said that only one or two people on her street felt obligated to clear the snow from the sidewalk in front of their homes.

Samson told council it’s also a safety issue for children who walk to school.

Coun. Michele Babchuk suggested that council could take another look at the issue next year.

“We’ve just been through a cycle where snow removal hasn’t been a big issue but if we do go through a cycle where that does happen, I look forward to maybe re-looking at this,” Babchuk said, “mainly because on one of those arterial roads (Dogwood Street) we have three of our largest educational institutions and it does become a passage issue for students getting to and from school.”