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New sidewalk snow removal standard takes town by storm

Published on

Troy Shantz

Sarnia could reduce the number of sidewalks it plows or spend an additional $1.6 million on equipment and staff to meet a new provincial standard for snow removal.

For now, at least, City Hall has decided to do neither.

When it snows, the public works department currently clears 152 of the city’s 330 kilometres of sidewalk, and it does so within 48 to 72 hours using four sidewalk plows.

But the new Ontario minimum maintenance standard says sidewalks should be cleared within 48 hours, which is a significant change.

City council balked at a staff recommendation on Nov. 5 to meet the standard by simply eliminating 32 kilometres of sidewalk from the winter maintenance schedule. That would allow the plows to do the job quicker.

It also ignored a second option, which was to buy seven additional plows and clear all 330 kilometres. That could cost $1.2 million for the plows and almost $400,000 a year in seasonal labour costs, according to a staff report.

The city can’t be fined for non-compliance but it does have increase legal liability. Should someone injured on an unserviced sidewalk file a lawsuit, the provincial standard could be cited as a factor.

“It’s all subject to the court of law,” said engineering director Mike Berkvens.

The city’s current resources and equipment simply can’t remove snowfalls from 152 kilometres of sidewalk in 48 hours, he said.

“We’ll have the vast majority done within the 48 hours, so we will be in compliance on a portion of the sidewalks, just not all of it.”

City council is expected to revisit the issue when it sets the 2019 budget in January.

Berkvens said he is preparing another report with more cost estimates and strategies to meet the new standard.

A third option council might consider is to contract out additional sidewalk clearing to independent contractors, as the city does now for road clearing following a major snowfall.


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