Sidewalk maintenance complaints snowball

‘Mobility difficult or impossible’ for elderly and infirm

City council was pelted once again this week for its “poorly maintained” sidewalks following major snowstorms.

Campbell River resident Richard Boehm said three weeks after a significant snowfall last December, there were areas that were still difficult or dangerous to navigate.

“For the elderly, the infirm, many people with disabilities, or anyone without a vehicle, mobility in such circumstances is difficult or impossible,” said Boehm, who is visually impaired.

He noted that even the main routes near Carihi and the hospital were “very poorly maintained.”

And weeks after the Dec. 23 snowfall, Boehm said he fell on two separate occasions walking from 2nd Avenue, going north.

At Tuesday night’s council meeting, Coun. Larry Samson said the city needs to take some responsibility for properly maintaining, at minimum, the city’s main routes.

“While I don’t expect that we clear all of the primary routes, I think that we should look at hitting some of the highlights like 2nd Avenue, Dogwood Street, Hilchey, these type of primary routes,” Samson said. “Our transportation manager has said this will double our snow removal costs; I think we can do it more economically.”

Samson put forward a motion, which was approved unanimously by council, to have city staff report back to council with options on clearing sidewalks along the primary routes.

It’s the second time Samson has attempted to improve the city’s maintenance standards.

In 2014, council heard from a mother of two young children who said she was stranded in her Hilchey home following a particularly bad snowstorm because the sidewalks were impassable nearly one week after the snowfall. Samson had encouraged council to do more and the city subsequently took responsibility for clearing snow from all city sidewalks on main roads.

But things went south during budget deliberations later that year.

Council nixed buying a $75,000 machine that the city required to do the sidewalk clearing.

Samson at the time said he found council’s decision to be “disagreeable, or disgusting.”

He said the city does nothing to help the most vulnerable get around following a snowstorm.

“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.”

Boehm agrees.

“If people are to be encouraged to move here after retirement, the policy toward snow clearance needs to be changed,” he said.

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 do so.