By Ron Giofu
If it snows again this winter, the town will take care of the sidewalk in front of your house.
The town has embarked on a pilot project where it will clear all 58 kilometres of sidewalks that it owns. The cost of such an initiative is estimated between $30,000 and $60,000 as public works has rented two trackless machines at a cost of $18,600.
CAO John Miceli told town council during last Monday night’s first night of budget deliberations that by the town clearing the municipal sidewalks, it places the town in a better position to defend itself in cases of liability.
By the town being “proactive” in its snow removal, Miceli said the $30,000-$60,000 is a “minor cost to defend ourselves in the case of gross negligence.”
The town passed a bylaw in 2005, which requires residents to clear the sidewalks adjacent to their properties within 12 hours of a five-centimetre snowfall. A report from manager of roads and fleet Eric Chamberlain stated that administration attempted to utilize and enforce the council-approved sidewalk removal bylaw.
“There were inconsistencies in meeting the objectives of the bylaw due to lack of co-operation from residents in the effort to get the sidewalks cleared and salted.
Predominantly this became a significant concern with properties along Front Road as the amount of snow deposited by the County’s plowing operations was significant during snowfall events,” Chamberlain wrote in his report. “As a result of resident complaints, council opted to place a moratorium on enforcement of Bylaw 2005-04.”
The moratorium did not relieve residents of their duties under the bylaw, Chamberlain added, but it temporarily removed administration’s authority to enforce the bylaw and gain compliance.
There is also an inequity as residents of Front Road North get their sidewalks cleared while others were only being done on a complaint basis.
Miceli said more people were starting to realize that if they called the town to complain, the town would come out and clear their sidewalks.
“The town is liable for gross negligence in the case of a claim as a result of snow and
ice accumulation on sidewalks. Over the past five years, the town has not been involved in any slip and fall claims involving sidewalks during the winter snow removal season,” Chamberlain’s report added. “Most sidewalks are municipally owned; therefore to properly mitigate the risk to the town, the responsibility to clear them should fall with the town. Municipalities do have the authority under the Municipal Act to establish sidewalk snow removal bylaws in order to assist the town in this endeavor, however this does not transfer the risk to the adjacent property owner, it is used to assist in the safe travel of pedestrians during winter conditions.”