This week, the city of St. John's public works committee was shown where sidewalk snowclearing has been done and where it will be expanded this year after council approved $250,000 more for the service in its 2012 budget. The red lines are routes which were previously done, the blue are the new streets, or sides of streets, that will now be plowed and the green represents the area cleared by the Downtown Development Commission. - Image courtesy of the City of St. John's
Advocates of sidewalk snowclearing in the city of St. John's were pleased when the city almost doubled the money used to pay for the service in its 2012 budget.
This week, council agreed to add $250,000 to the annual budget for sidewalk snowclearing and an additional $450,000 for three new sidewalk snowclearing machines.
The first pot of money will be used to hire six new snowclearing operators and pay for additional salt and other associated costs.
On Thursday, at the city's public works committee meeting, councillors were shown a map which detailed where the sidewalks have been cleared in recent years and where the service will be expanded.
Last year, the city cleared two approximately 50-km long routes for a total of 101 kms of sidewalk. This year, the city will clear four shorter 33 km routes for a total of 132 kms of sidewalk as well as some Metrobus stops on multi-lane streets.
Metrobus currently shovels out bus shelters.
City staff said shorter routes mean sidewalks will be cleared more quickly than the longer ones were.
But staff also pointed out that the city cannot afford to clear every sidewalk in St. John's and that it will still take time, after a major snow fall, to get the sidewalk machines in action.
Ward 2 Coun. Frank Galgay warned that the new money, and the enhanced service, will not be "the new Jerusalem" nor the "panacea" for those who believe the city must clear all sidewalks.
It was also noted that there are some streets where sidewalk snowclearing is impractical due to their geography, incline and obstacles such as parking meters and utility poles.
A few routes which were cleared last year won't be cleared anymore, either because it was found they weren't used very often or they no longer meet the city's criteria for sidewalk snowclearing.
One example is Beaumont Street in the city's centre. That street's sidewalks were plowed before because I.J. Samson school was on that street. But the school is now closed.
The original criteria for sidewalk snowclearing concentrated on areas within a one-mile radius of a school.
Coun. Sheilagh O'Leary also asked that the city encourage people who live on streets where sidewalks won't be plowed to pitch in by shovelling the sidewalks in front of their homes. O'Leary noted that in many Canadian cities a bylaw makes homeowners responsible for those sidewalks.
Ward 1 Coun. Danny Breen suggested the city hold a public meeting, or a series of public meetings, to show people what will be cleared, answer their questions and inform people about the realities of sidewalk snowclearing, including how much it costs and why it sometimes takes time to begin the work following a storm.