Forty per cent of sidewalks in the Town of the Blue Mountains (TBM) remain unserviced in the winter months.
“This year more than any other we need to assure our sidewalks and roads are clear of ice and snow at all times,” stated resident Brendan Thomson in a letter to TBM council. “Even when cleared of snow, local sidewalks are usually treacherous (rutted, frozen, etc).”
Currently, the TBM owns and maintains 32 kilometres of sidewalk throughout the municipality.
Snow removal is conducted on approximately 19 kilometres or 60 per cent of the municipality’s sidewalks. The other 13 kilometres do not receive any winter maintenance.
“We need to allocate more money to these services. Winter servicing should begin at the first snowfall/ice storm and end at the last snowfall/ice storm (winter event),” Thomson continued.
According to a recent staff report to council, the annual cost for all of TBM sidewalks, including repairs and maintenance activities, and both internal costs (staff and equipment time) and external costs, totals $1,776,000.
“For the sidewalks that receive snow removal, which again is around 19,000 metres, it costs approximately $7.06 per metre for annual repairs, maintenance and snow removal,” said Sam Dinsmore, deputy treasurer/manager of accounting and budgets for TBM, at a committee of the whole meeting held earlier this week.
Sidewalks without snow removal have an annual per-metre cost of $0.37.
While explaining the possibility of costing winter maintenance for the additional 13 kilometres of unserviced sidewalks, Dinsmore noted that the rate of $7.06 per metre may not be able to be achieved for the remaining sidewalks due to the difficulty in securing the proper service in a cost-effective manner.
“I think you'll see that that cost is going to go up to the point where it may make more sense to internalize this,” he added.
TBM councillor Paula Hope said she would like to see the budget implications for winter maintenance on 100 per cent of the municipality’s sidewalks in order to determine what percentage the municipality can realistically afford to maintain.
“I would like to float that idea past council that we explore what 100 per cent maintenance looks like, and then we can work our way back to a percentage that we think will deal with all of the requirements we have,” Hope said.
TBM council members and staff noted the current level of service on area sidewalks, along with options to expand winter maintenance levels, will be explored through the 2021 budget process.
The first draft of TBM’s proposed 2021 budget is expected to be presented to council at the Dec. 2, 7, and 9 committee of the whole budget meetings.
Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca