For the umpteenth time Hamilton Council has looked at the issue of expanding sidewalk snow clearing and for the same number of times councillors have voted against expansion. The debate brought into focus this disparity in the situation depending on the wards one lives in. The suburban wards have large stretches of rural areas where there are no sidewalks. Ancaster has a unique arrangement where sidewalks are cleared and a local levy pays for it.
The City currently provides partial snow clearing winter control for sidewalks to clear 397 km of the approximate 2,445 km of sidewalks across Hamilton. There clearances are on main roads along bus routes.
Staff presented council with a range of snow clearing enhancements ranging from the current practice (397 km) at a current cost of $2.1 Million per tear, to a plan that would see all 2400 km of sidewalks cleared to the bare pavement and salted at a cost of $9 Million.
Ward three Councillor Nrinder Nann asked for a plan in the middle of the cost range. It would see about half of the city’s sidewalks cleared at a cost of $4.4 Million to $4.8 Million. She argued that the seniors who live in her ward are often forced out into the street to avoid individual homes that have either neglected to clear their walks or were unable to do so owing to age or disability.
Coun. Sam Merulla was concerned that the public was getting a false expectation of what the snow clearing would bring. He pointed out that the use of sidewalk plows would still dump snow onto the street entrance to driveways, exacerbating an already common complaint about driveways being blocked by street plows.
The sidewalk clearing plan would also do nothing to clear sidewalks connecting homes to the city sidewalks.
In the end council defeated the enhanced sidewalk plan. Staff politely pointed out that they have been asked several times to present sidewalk snow-clearing scenarios to council.