Skidding on Sidewalks

Only 15 days into my job as Councillor and I’ve already walked into a slippery, no-win issue—one of those cases where any decision brings shock and rage from one segment of the community or another.

Background: In the summer of 2010, the previous Council decided to cease sidewalk snow removal in parts of Almonte to save money. At my first meeting of the Roads and Public Works committee on December 9, 2010, two motions came forward that, combined, renewed snow removal on some sidewalks but still left 10 streets on the no-plow list.

Once the local papers printed the list of cut streets, several friends and acquaintances lambasted me about the cuts. Some rant about “rural polarized attitudes” and others about public safety.

Note: Sidewalk clearing occurs on main roads in Almonte, plus those near churches, hospitals, schools and some walking routes to schools. We also plow sidewalks along Pakenham's main street. Clayton’s sidewalks are rarely plowed.

I fully support the idea of clearing every sidewalk in Almonte, Pakenham and Clayton for safety and liability reasons, as long as the full cost is not paid for through taxes.

While general revenues should cover clearing on main roads and near institutions, I feel that residents should be responsible for the sidewalk in front of their homes. Either pay a fee to have the Town clear it or clear it themselves. (A Kitchener a by-law requires people to clear their sidewalks.) As a boy, I shovelled our sidewalk and made a few dollars clearing snow for neighbours.

I have to look at the whole picture. We currently have a $4 million liability for bridge repairs and replacements. At least one rural bridge is critical and must be fixed this year. New bridges are very expensive.

My personal goals are to limit tax increases and apply resources where needed most. While people can clear their own sidewalks, they cannot build their own bridges. So, it is a simple decision as to where our limited money goes.


Anonymous said...

Hi Shaun,
You are surely on a slippery slope here.
You haven't mentioned Appleton or Blakeney in your blog, only Pakenham and Clayton.
I presume that, if the sidewalks aren't plowed, then people walk on the ploughed road. I also presume that, where they are not plowing the sidewalks, there is very little traffic on that street. Is that so? Will Roads see to it that these streets are plowed back as far as possible?
What has been historic practice with these about to be unplowed sidewalks?
I think Council has to give these people a sound explanation why their sidewalks are to remain unplowed.
Have the people on these streets been officially notified by letter that their street is not being plowed this year?
Are you satisfied that the selection of streets to not plow has been done fairly and expertly?
Three problems I can see about plowing your own sidewalk in front of your property. What is you are a senior senior or disabled? What is there is a vacant lot beside you? What if you own a very large lot?
Will this decision be made by By-law?
How much is 2-3% tax increase?
All for this issue Shaun,
Good luch on this one.

Shaun McLaughlin said...

Blakeney has no sidewalks. Appleton has a short one. Historically most sidewalks in MM have not been plowed. When I was a boy in Toronto, we cleared our own sidewalks and helped neighbours if they were infirm or ill. Many people have snowblowers for their driveways. It wouldn't take much effort to run it along the sidewalk too. Tax increases effect each property differently--it is based on the assessed value.