City to hire staff to clear sidewalks

Article content

City hall will hire five seasonal workers to make sure sidewalks are cleared during snowstorms, although it won’t happen on time for this weekend’s winter blast.


Story continues below

Article content

Council earlier this week approved a motion to enhance winter control service, in order better to include sidewalks.

Its measures include the hiring of five temporary staffers from Nov. 1 to Mar. 31, as well as using a four-to-one sand/salt mix on sidewalks, rather than using only sand.

Together, the two new measures are expected to drive up the winter control budget by about $145,000 a year.

A report from staff notes that hiring the five seasonal workers will allow the full-time operators “to continue sidewalk maintenance activities.

“Policy changes would include reprioritizing the during and after storm work lists contained in the policy to include servicing the lower class of sidewalks in accordance with MMS (minimum maintenance standards), as currently they are not serviced until after all lists are completed,” the report adds.

City council first asked staff last March to look into what it might take to improve sidewalk snow removal.

Since then, Mayor Jason Baker noted, the province has deemed it inappropriate for municipalities to divide sidewalks into different priority classes for winter control, as Brockville has been doing.

“All of our sidewalks are being reclassified as one,” added the mayor.

While the city is liable should someone get injured as a result of a sidewalk not cleared according to the city’s policy, city hall can also declare a “significant weather event,” giving workers the ability to delay sidewalk clearing while tackling higher priorities during major storms, said Baker.


Story continues below

Article content

While the rules changed at the provincial level, that was not the driver of these changes, added Baker.

“It was entirely driven, from a council perspective, on enhancing the service.”

Essentially, the mayor believes, the public has spoken and it is willing to pay more in order to have sidewalks cleared more quickly and effectively.

“As a city council, we’re just trying to react to what we’re hearing from our constituents,” said Baker.

Last March, councillors said they were responding to concerns about seniors having to walk on the road during icy conditions, and citizens complaining on social media about poorly maintained sidewalks during winter conditions.

City officials will study the effects of the changes and see if other adjustments need to be made.

“It’s very much a work in progress,” said Baker.

City operations director Conal Cosgrove said the city has already replaced the all-sand mixture for sidewalks with the sand-salt mix since council’s decision on Tuesday.

But the enhanced schedule of sidewalk clearing will only happen when the five new people are hired, and the hiring process could effectively delay that improvement until the start of next winter, Cosgrove believes.

Baker, meanwhile, hopes the new people can be brought on board before the end of this winter.

City officials estimate the annual cost of the five new seasonal workers will be around $125,000. Adding salt to the mix for sidewalk would also increase the annual winter control materials budget by approximately $20,000.

While adding salt will help melt the ice on sidewalks, it will eventually speed up the erosion of the concrete. Cosgrove is not sure how much that will add to municipal infrastructure costs in the longer term.

“It’s something we’ll see over time,” said Cosgrove.

“It’s going to be a 10 or a 20 (year process) or maybe even longer before we start to see the results of that.”

Another clause in the motion council approved Tuesday removes the classification of the Brock Trail as a sidewalk, changing it to “a pathway to be cleared when time and staffing resources permit.”

Latest National Stories


Story continues below

News Near Brockville

This Week in Flyers