City sees sidewalk snow clearing as a 'high priority'

News Jan 16, 2018 by Bill Jackson Kitchener Post

Those who’ve long been advocating for the city to clear sidewalks following a snowfall could soon see some progress.

Judging from comments made by city officials and local councillors during a public budget delegation evening on Monday evening, Jan. 15, sentiment is changing.

“I can assure council we’ve heard loud and clear from the local community, including may special interest groups,” said Cynthia Fletcher, the city’s executive director of infrastructure services.

“We see this as a high priority as well.”

Winter snow clearing was a common theme stemming from online budget feedback received by the city, according to Coun. Kelly Galloway Sealock, who requested an issue paper on the matter for more information.

Fletcher said she anticipates bringing back a more comprehensive report in June that will incorporate new provincial maintenance standards expected out in the first quarter of this year.

A staff report in 2016 estimated the cost of city sidewalk clearing to result in a $26 increase to the average property tax bill, however Fletcher said that number was an “order of magnitude” and that costing needs to be verified.

Staff is undertaking a comprehensive winter maintenance review looking at sidewalks, windrows and the size of snow banks, as well as snow loading, Fletcher said. Changes to servicing could mean running pilot programs to start.

Resident Gehan Sabry would also like to see the city deal with snow piles left behind by plows.

Snow plowing on local streets and a lack thereof on sidewalks has created a "grievous wrong" that should never have existed in the first place, Sabry said, calling it “forced unpaid labour imposed indiscriminately on the shoulders of homeowners, regardless of their consent and their abilities.”

With the technology now available, there’s no reason to let it continue, she added.

Sharon Giles, co-chair of the Grand River accessibility advisory committee, also acknowledged a growing support for city sidewalk clearing, citing a recent study by the Tri-Cities Transport Action Group that found people walking as short a distance as 50 metres in winter are likely to run into some sort of obstruction on their journey.

Giles said the problem with the city’s current bylaw is that it’s reactive — based on complaints — and citizens have 24 hours following a snowfall to clear their sidewalks. If it snows for three days, there’s really no end to it piling up, and it only gets worse, she said.

“My own experience with snowy sidewalks has been frustrating and difficult at best — getting stuck in a poorly shovelled sidewalk, waiting for help in bitter snow and cold weather, or not being able to get down the street and watching my bus go by because I wasn’t able to make it in time."

GRAAC put forward position paper on sidewalk removal about a year ago and has been advocating for city sidewalk clearing for at least the past eight years, Giles said.

“We cannot stress enough the importance of safety when you leave your home.”

Coun. Frank Etherington told her not to give up.

“Speaking as one councillor, I’ve come full circle on this issue, especially lately,” he said. “I’ve been hearing a lot more calls and comments and emails from people who say they’re willing to pay up to a $50 on their taxes in order to get the city more involved in clearing sidewalks, and I haven’t had that before."

Mayor Berry Vrbanovic said the city needs to do better.

“If we’re encouraging more people to walk, if we’re encouraging more people to rely on transit, if we're wanting to make our community more accessible … this is something we need to do a better job on — and when I say we, I mean the city in some cases and the region in others.”

Vrbanovic wondered if local governments should study the number of people with accessibility challenges and perhaps provide a higher level of public transit during the winter months instead.

Several other councillors also expressed a desire to move toward change.

“For this being one of the first years I’ve had to walk my kids to a bus stop with a stroller … I’ve learned some of the challenges first hand,” Galloway-Sealock said. “I’ve had to go on road and everything because the curb cuts aren’t plowed and many different things.”

She’s also hearing a lot more public support for municipal sidewalk clearing.

“I think it is something we need to seriously consider.”


City sees sidewalk snow clearing as a 'high priority'

Staff investigating several issues as part of winter maintenance review

News Jan 16, 2018 by Bill Jackson Kitchener Post

Those who’ve long been advocating for the city to clear sidewalks following a snowfall could soon see some progress.

Judging from comments made by city officials and local councillors during a public budget delegation evening on Monday evening, Jan. 15, sentiment is changing.

“I can assure council we’ve heard loud and clear from the local community, including may special interest groups,” said Cynthia Fletcher, the city’s executive director of infrastructure services.

“We see this as a high priority as well.”

Winter snow clearing was a common theme stemming from online budget feedback received by the city, according to Coun. Kelly Galloway Sealock, who requested an issue paper on the matter for more information.

Fletcher said she anticipates bringing back a more comprehensive report in June that will incorporate new provincial maintenance standards expected out in the first quarter of this year.

A staff report in 2016 estimated the cost of city sidewalk clearing to result in a $26 increase to the average property tax bill, however Fletcher said that number was an “order of magnitude” and that costing needs to be verified.

Staff is undertaking a comprehensive winter maintenance review looking at sidewalks, windrows and the size of snow banks, as well as snow loading, Fletcher said. Changes to servicing could mean running pilot programs to start.

Resident Gehan Sabry would also like to see the city deal with snow piles left behind by plows.

Snow plowing on local streets and a lack thereof on sidewalks has created a "grievous wrong" that should never have existed in the first place, Sabry said, calling it “forced unpaid labour imposed indiscriminately on the shoulders of homeowners, regardless of their consent and their abilities.”

With the technology now available, there’s no reason to let it continue, she added.

Sharon Giles, co-chair of the Grand River accessibility advisory committee, also acknowledged a growing support for city sidewalk clearing, citing a recent study by the Tri-Cities Transport Action Group that found people walking as short a distance as 50 metres in winter are likely to run into some sort of obstruction on their journey.

Giles said the problem with the city’s current bylaw is that it’s reactive — based on complaints — and citizens have 24 hours following a snowfall to clear their sidewalks. If it snows for three days, there’s really no end to it piling up, and it only gets worse, she said.

“My own experience with snowy sidewalks has been frustrating and difficult at best — getting stuck in a poorly shovelled sidewalk, waiting for help in bitter snow and cold weather, or not being able to get down the street and watching my bus go by because I wasn’t able to make it in time."

GRAAC put forward position paper on sidewalk removal about a year ago and has been advocating for city sidewalk clearing for at least the past eight years, Giles said.

“We cannot stress enough the importance of safety when you leave your home.”

Coun. Frank Etherington told her not to give up.

“Speaking as one councillor, I’ve come full circle on this issue, especially lately,” he said. “I’ve been hearing a lot more calls and comments and emails from people who say they’re willing to pay up to a $50 on their taxes in order to get the city more involved in clearing sidewalks, and I haven’t had that before."

Mayor Berry Vrbanovic said the city needs to do better.

“If we’re encouraging more people to walk, if we’re encouraging more people to rely on transit, if we're wanting to make our community more accessible … this is something we need to do a better job on — and when I say we, I mean the city in some cases and the region in others.”

Vrbanovic wondered if local governments should study the number of people with accessibility challenges and perhaps provide a higher level of public transit during the winter months instead.

Several other councillors also expressed a desire to move toward change.

“For this being one of the first years I’ve had to walk my kids to a bus stop with a stroller … I’ve learned some of the challenges first hand,” Galloway-Sealock said. “I’ve had to go on road and everything because the curb cuts aren’t plowed and many different things.”

She’s also hearing a lot more public support for municipal sidewalk clearing.

“I think it is something we need to seriously consider.”


City sees sidewalk snow clearing as a 'high priority'

Staff investigating several issues as part of winter maintenance review

News Jan 16, 2018 by Bill Jackson Kitchener Post

Those who’ve long been advocating for the city to clear sidewalks following a snowfall could soon see some progress.

Judging from comments made by city officials and local councillors during a public budget delegation evening on Monday evening, Jan. 15, sentiment is changing.

“I can assure council we’ve heard loud and clear from the local community, including may special interest groups,” said Cynthia Fletcher, the city’s executive director of infrastructure services.

“We see this as a high priority as well.”

Winter snow clearing was a common theme stemming from online budget feedback received by the city, according to Coun. Kelly Galloway Sealock, who requested an issue paper on the matter for more information.

Fletcher said she anticipates bringing back a more comprehensive report in June that will incorporate new provincial maintenance standards expected out in the first quarter of this year.

A staff report in 2016 estimated the cost of city sidewalk clearing to result in a $26 increase to the average property tax bill, however Fletcher said that number was an “order of magnitude” and that costing needs to be verified.

Staff is undertaking a comprehensive winter maintenance review looking at sidewalks, windrows and the size of snow banks, as well as snow loading, Fletcher said. Changes to servicing could mean running pilot programs to start.

Resident Gehan Sabry would also like to see the city deal with snow piles left behind by plows.

Snow plowing on local streets and a lack thereof on sidewalks has created a "grievous wrong" that should never have existed in the first place, Sabry said, calling it “forced unpaid labour imposed indiscriminately on the shoulders of homeowners, regardless of their consent and their abilities.”

With the technology now available, there’s no reason to let it continue, she added.

Sharon Giles, co-chair of the Grand River accessibility advisory committee, also acknowledged a growing support for city sidewalk clearing, citing a recent study by the Tri-Cities Transport Action Group that found people walking as short a distance as 50 metres in winter are likely to run into some sort of obstruction on their journey.

Giles said the problem with the city’s current bylaw is that it’s reactive — based on complaints — and citizens have 24 hours following a snowfall to clear their sidewalks. If it snows for three days, there’s really no end to it piling up, and it only gets worse, she said.

“My own experience with snowy sidewalks has been frustrating and difficult at best — getting stuck in a poorly shovelled sidewalk, waiting for help in bitter snow and cold weather, or not being able to get down the street and watching my bus go by because I wasn’t able to make it in time."

GRAAC put forward position paper on sidewalk removal about a year ago and has been advocating for city sidewalk clearing for at least the past eight years, Giles said.

“We cannot stress enough the importance of safety when you leave your home.”

Coun. Frank Etherington told her not to give up.

“Speaking as one councillor, I’ve come full circle on this issue, especially lately,” he said. “I’ve been hearing a lot more calls and comments and emails from people who say they’re willing to pay up to a $50 on their taxes in order to get the city more involved in clearing sidewalks, and I haven’t had that before."

Mayor Berry Vrbanovic said the city needs to do better.

“If we’re encouraging more people to walk, if we’re encouraging more people to rely on transit, if we're wanting to make our community more accessible … this is something we need to do a better job on — and when I say we, I mean the city in some cases and the region in others.”

Vrbanovic wondered if local governments should study the number of people with accessibility challenges and perhaps provide a higher level of public transit during the winter months instead.

Several other councillors also expressed a desire to move toward change.

“For this being one of the first years I’ve had to walk my kids to a bus stop with a stroller … I’ve learned some of the challenges first hand,” Galloway-Sealock said. “I’ve had to go on road and everything because the curb cuts aren’t plowed and many different things.”

She’s also hearing a lot more public support for municipal sidewalk clearing.

“I think it is something we need to seriously consider.”