Integrating the service will require the purchase of five sidewalk and building snow clearing machines in Craigleith and Thornbury for storage.
The City of The Blue Mountains faces significant new costs to integrate sidewalk snow removal as a municipal service.
At the June 27 Committee of the Whole meeting, council voted unanimously to approve a staff recommendation to make sidewalk snow removal a municipal program. The change comes at a high cost with new operating expenses estimated at $540,000 per year and capital costs to buy the machines, a truck to transport them and buildings to house them estimated at $2,280,000.
The move will also require the hiring of five operators and a team leader/backup to add to the city’s full-time staff. In the summer, four staff members will be assigned to the roads and drainage department, while two will be assigned to the parks department.
“That’s a big number,” said roads and drainage manager Jim McCannell. “We had a better experience using our own staff. We get a better level of service.
Currently, the city clears 20.23 km of sidewalks around the city through contracts with the private sector. In total, 10.78 km of sidewalks receive no winter maintenance, there are 4.58 km of private sidewalks and 10.65 km that have not been assumed by the city.
Integrating the service will require the purchase of five sidewalk and building snow clearing machines in Craigleith and Thornbury for storage. Staff said they believe the town’s facilities at Tomahawk could be used for the Thornbury/Clarksburg routes and that a new building should be constructed at Craigleith. A full report with options will come back to the board in the near future.
“It’s part of transforming our community. We have a lot of sidewalks and we should clear them all,” Mayor Alar Soever said.
Staff explained that clearing the sidewalks in-house would ensure continuity of service for the community. In recent years, insurance rates for private contractors have skyrocketed and it is increasingly difficult to get contractors to provide snow removal services.
“We find that we’re paying a real premium for these services,” McCannell said.
Providing staff with full-time, year-round positions is an advantage for the city in terms of recruiting good candidates.
The resolution passed by council would see sidewalk snow removal become a full municipal service on November 1, 2024. Council also directed staff to consider potential partnerships with the private sector as part of their deliberations on the matter. . A full range of financial options and requirements for the project will be discussed during the 2023 budget deliberations.