City staff recommend pushing sidewalk snow clearing discussion to next year’s budget: report

·3 min read

In the winter, Carolann Fernandes feels like a rabbit burrowing her own path as she clears snow from her sidewalk.

At one end of her Mountain lot, there’s a fire hydrant and on the other, a mailbox.

The 80-year-old retired educator lives on a street with many seniors. She has to clear her snow quickly.

“The seniors have to walk to collect their mail. If I don’t clear the sidewalk, the seniors can fall,” Fernandes said.

While she and her 88-year-old husband own a snowblower, she says it takes them up to an hour out in the cold to clear the snow depending on how much there is.

“In the cold, it’s hard for a senior. Breathing is an issue,” said Fernandes, who sits on the city’s Seniors Advisory Committee. “I’m scared that (my husband) will get pneumonia.”

Last year, her husband slipped on ice and fell on his shoulder, hurting his arm and elbow.

“Fortunately, it was not that serious,” she said. “He didn’t break anything.”

But the experience left her rattled enough to hire a vendor to clear her snow for the rest of the year, which she says cost her about $1,000. That’s why she’d prefer the city to take on the responsibility, even if it means raising her taxes.

City staff are recommending in a recent report that changes to the city’s snow clearing services be pushed to 2021 budget discussions. If the recommendation is accepted when the mayor and councillors meet on Nov. 18, it will mean residents will continue to be responsible for clearing their own snow this winter.

The report provides updated estimates to the costs for expanding city snow clearing on sidewalks. One option is to clear sidewalks on all arterial and collector roads in the city, which would cost an additional $1.48 million to $1.78 million, making the total budget between $3.06 million and $3.36 million.

That would mean an estimated 0.2 per cent increase to the residential tax levy, or $8 for a single bill on average.

To clear all the sidewalks in the city would cost an additional $3.53 million to $3.78 million, for a total budget between $5.11 million and $5.36 million. The tax levy would increase by an estimated 0.4 per cent for residents, or $16 on average.

The report also includes the results of a recent public survey on the issue.

The city received 1,987 completed surveys between Aug. 10 and Sept. 14. Three-quarters of respondents (73.1 per cent) said the city should invest resources to provide “more consistent” sidewalk snow clearing, and 74.6 per cent said improving city walkability in the winter should be a council priority.

A majority of respondents, 81.6 per cent, were reported to “definitely support” a tax increase $10 or less, with 67 per cent supporting a rise of $10 to $25. About half (49.6 per cent) said they don’t support a tax increase more than $50.

Currently, the city only clears sidewalks for Ancaster residents, at residents’ own cost, as a product of amalgamation.

The city also has a Snow Angels program where volunteers clear sidewalks and pathways at the homes of low-income seniors and people with disabilities. However, due to high demand and shortage of volunteers, the program is not currently accepting new clients.

Maria Iqbal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator