Whitehorse 'failing' on icy sidewalks, councillor says

A Whitehorse councillor says when it comes to icy sidewalks, the city has been letting things slide.

Coun. Steve Roddick said messy sidewalks are a persistent problem, as many property owners fail to clear them. He's wondering if it's time for the city to take on the job or hire someone to do it.

"You know, it's pretty clear that many of our sidewalks remain icy and [in] unsafe conditions for pedestrians, particularly seniors and people with mobility challenges," Roddick said at city council's meeting on Monday.

"I fear that this is an equity issue, and at present we are failing our most vulnerable citizens."

Under the city's maintenance bylaw, business owners are required to clear snow and ice from any sidewalk bordering their property before 11 a.m. the day after a snowfall. Residential property owners have 48 hours after a snowfall to clear the way. Failing to do so can mean fines.

Roddick questioned whether the bylaw is effective.

Paul Tukker/CBC

"It doesn't really appear, you know, as I toured the city, that it's delivering the intended results," he said.  

According to city staff, complaints about sidewalks have been coming to the bylaw department about once every other day — there have been 15 since Nov. 1, council heard. Those complaints were all investigated, but staff couldn't say whether anybody was fined.

Roddick suggested looking for "alternative approaches" to clearing the city's estimated 250 kilometres of sidewalks. He asked what the costs might be "for outsourcing these services to the private sector, or taking them on ourselves."

Jeff O'Farrell of the bylaw service department said figuring out those costs would be a "resource consumptive process."

Roddick said he'd be satisfied to know first just what proportion of the city's sidewalk are subject to the bylaw. 

"We will do our best to find that information," said Valerie Braga, acting city manager.