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LETTER: Sidewalk snowclearing must be a priority

In this file photo, a City of St. John’s snowclearing crew member clears and salts a section of sidewalk on Empire Avenue. TELEGRAM FILE PHOTO
In this file photo, a City of St. John’s snowclearing crew member clears and salts a section of sidewalk on Empire Avenue. TELEGRAM FILE PHOTO

Council’s Committee of the Whole decision not to increase the sidewalk snow clearing budget was bad, and should be revisited immediately in order to acquire the resources necessary for improved services in winter 2020-21.

The provision of sidewalk clearing is a fundamental responsibility of city council.

It is not discretionary, as the committee’s decision implies.

Not only should council allocate the $1.3 million for improved service, it should immediately direct staff to identify lower-priority services whereby funds can be redirected to sidewalk snowclearing so that taxpayers do not have to shoulder an additional burden for this essential service.

Here’s but one example of a lower-priority service. I am a gardener. I love flowers.

But flowers and landscaping along city roads are a “nice to have.”

Not only should council allocate the $1.3 million for improved service, it should immediately direct staff to identify lower-priority services whereby funds can be redirected to sidewalk snowclearing so that taxpayers do not have to shoulder an additional burden for this essential service.

Probably a relatively small expenditure, but this is but one of many sources of funds which can be directed to sidewalk snowclearing. council is demonstrating it is not accountable to taxpayers.

The exercise was purely optics, a waste of taxpayers’ money.

I’m not a constant complainer, nor unrealistic in my expectations regarding municipal services.

In fact, I have no complaint about the complete lack of sidewalk clearing in my immediate neighbourhood. The streets are wide and vehicle traffic levels low, so people can safely walk on the road in the winter.

However, the snowclearing is totally unacceptable on nearby streets with heavier pedestrian use and vehicle traffic. Pedestrians frequently walk on the lower end of Cowan Avenue to access Bowring Park.

Despite being classified as a Priority 2 sidewalk, it is never cleared to the concrete. The surface is so uneven and icy that it cannot be used safely for months. I have no mobility issues, but am obliged to walk on the road — at risk to myself and motorists — but less of a risk than walking on a treacherous sidewalk where chances of a slip and fall are very high.

Also, Topsail Road between Columbus Drive and Cowan Avenue is frequently used by pedestrians, for example, young people working at fast-food restaurants and walking to school. Although it is a Priority 1 sidewalk, the surface is never fully cleared, and safety is further hampered by huge snowbanks left along the roadside. All Priority 1 and 2 sidewalks should be cleared to the concrete as soon as the adjacent roadways are cleared to the pavement.

Council is capable of making good decisions — a wonderful, visionary decision was made to create a pedestrian mall on Water Street this summer. It improved the quality of life for thousands of citizens of all ages and provided vital support to struggling businesses.

Do the right thing with regard to sidewalk snowclearing as well.

Cheryl Brown-McLean,
St. John’s

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