THE SIDEWALK SHOVELLING DEBATE

After the Snow 007Our new Thorold City Council met last night and one of the longest discussions concerned the delegation of a gentleman who came to ask Council to reinstate the by-law requiring everyone to clear their section of sidewalk following a snowfall.

We already have one of those, don’t we? Well, no we don’t, although we used to. It was removed in 1998, based on a legal opinion concerning liability if the City had a by-law they didn’t enforce and of the City not clearing the sidewalk sections in front of their own properties.

This delegation caused a great deal of discussion due to the many considerations sparked by the request, since it isn’t quite as easy a question as one might think. There are a number of ramifications to reinstating the by-law: legal, seniors/disabled, equipment, manpower, and the AODA ( the law that sets accessibility standards in Ontario.)

The legal problem is liability, since it has become the number one concern to just about everyone in our relatively recently lawsuit-happy society.

The equipment and manpower problems have to do with cleaning the sidewalks along City property, since municipalities apparently can’t be exempt from their own by-laws (plus it looks bad). They now have one machine for this, and it has just started to clear the sidewalks on Class 3 roadways (the busy ones). To target City stretches would require shunting the machine all around town to six miles of sometimes quite short disconnected road sections, requiring a dedicated vehicle to do the shunting.

The City thinks they would need to buy equipment and possibly hire more staff. They could save on the equipment cost by having the staff use shovels or snow blowers, but that would require even more staff. They could contract it out but that, too, would cost the City, and taxpayers, money.

Then there are the weekends. Overtime: need I say more?

We could say just forget it. Walk through the snow. But some people can’t walk through the snow and municipalities in Ontario are now legislated to care through the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). The City simply isn’t allowed to ignore people with disabilities.

But let’s just forget the City’s portions for a moment.

On the residents’ side of things, there is a concern that not everyone will be physically able to shovel their sidewalk. It would seem that, in some municipalities, it’s possible to obtain a pass by applying for it. And how does the municipality determine eligibility, a doctor’s certificate? If there’s a charge for this pass, would that be considered a tax on disability?

Let’s say the pass is fine, but then who shovels that patch of sidewalk? The City? That brings us back to City costs. Then there is a suggestion that students have to do it as part of their public service, the problem being of course, that students have rights.

The City of Thorold could clear all the sidewalks like Grimsby. In that regard, I refer you to paragraphs five through seven – in spades.

There is another possibility, one that would prevent both the need for a by-law and the cost of the City ploughing all the sidewalks. Next time it snows, within the next day, we should get off our butts and go out and shovel our sidewalks. And if we know of a neighbour who can’t do it (and whose kids can’t do it), help him/her out.

But if a sense of civic or social duty won’t do it, we can think of it this way: it could save us money. If we figure out a way, the AODA may well force us to spend tax money to clear the sidewalks.

6 thoughts on “THE SIDEWALK SHOVELLING DEBATE

  1. I so agree with Ron on his second comment! Thank you Tony for this blog – I do realize we are merely the taxpayers who pay the bills, but it is nice to be kept in the loop as to how our money is being spent. I must say I personally miss Becky and her blog. Actually, I am disappointed that Thorold elected an all male council this time, as if trying to prove how far back in the dark ages we are. Having said that, maybe there is hope that this council
    intends to look after us the way we deserve. Good Luck and to you and all your readers “Merry Christmas” and a “Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2015”

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  2. correct me if I am wrong but I could have sworn this was one of the issues I had on my campaign flyers… Funny how city council sure loves some of the ideas I had but during the election they shunned the idea saying it wouldnt work and that it isnt needed. Interesting how much they like to STEAL the ideas of other candadites yet do not bother to give the credit for an idea where its due. I am sure willing to bet though that this council will certainly give itself a pat on the back for a job well done if they do manage to come up with something for snow removal that works.

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    • I don’t know if you’ll have to worry about that too soon. This issue comes up in every Council term and there’s a report during every Council term, and nothing happens every Council term. The only thing this time, is that if they don’t come up with an answer, AODA standards may make the decision for them. Then we’ll all be paying for new equipment and manpower, whether through acquisition or through contracting out.

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  3. Too bad Thorold Council is not televised LIVE like all other Niagara municipalities Councils are!! Without it, It really leaves us handicapped in our knowledge of Council’s “musings”…especially in light of the lack of newspaper coverage,too!!
    Good thing we have you, Tony, to keep us up-to-date!! THANKS and Merry Christmas to you and your family!!!

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  4. A “complex” issue for sure…but we do not have to re-invent the wheel! If Grimsby does it and I am pretty sure Fort Erie does it, City Staff should be directed to investigate the conditions/terms that it is done there. There must be other municipalities in Ontario that do it too…HOW??
    A major concern in Thorold would be the lack of work ethic/supervision of City Staff who do outdoor work!!!
    I have carefully observed over MANY years that there are too many City workers who actually only do 2.5 to 4.0 hours of outdoor work in a day when they are actually being paid for 8. They have it far too easy/the working conditions are far too lax.
    It would be nice to see Thorold take the same approach as the City of Hamilton did a few years ago…if the City is serious about being efficient with taxpayer dollars, workers should be told that we expect a full day’s work for a full day’s pay. And if they (the workers) don’t do that, there will be consequences.
    With this approach, sidewalk clearing could be done with the money that City workers waste throughout the year by collecting paycheques that they haven’t earned. ERGO, this work could be done within existing budgets if we were getting our money’s worth from Thorold’s outdoor City workers in the first place!!!

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