Changes to provincial regulations regarding the clearing of snow from sidewalks could get expensive for the municipality.
Or it could result in property owners doing the heavy lifting.
Pat Bruette, acting director of public works, said a recent shift in provincial regulations requires the clearing of sidewalks of snow within 48 hours of a typical snowfall, and adding the responsibility of de-icing the sidewalks as well. It’s the latter element that is cause for concern, he said.
Chatham-Kent has more than 400 kilometres of sidewalks. They use five in-house sidewalk plows and contract out the remainder. Bruette said they can normally hit the 48-hour target, but he’s worried about the de-icing.
“It becomes quite an issue,” Bruette said. “ Timing isn’t as much of an issue as the actual de-icing and how many times you have to de-ice per storm.”
He added the minimum maintenance standard is to put down salt.
“I’m not sold it will work that well on some of our sidewalks. They aren’t like roads where it drains off after melting,” he said, adding roads are sloped for drainage, but sidewalks aren’t. “Sidewalks are more like a bathtub. If it melts, it’s going to re-freeze.”
So instead of having compacted snow on a sidewalk, there is the potential for ice.
Bruette said he hasn’t put a dollar figure on what it would take to adhere to the new provincial guidelines, but expects it will be well into six figures.
“It’s significant. It’s not like just adding $100,000 to the budget. It’s going to exceed that quite a bit,” he said.
But there is another option, or perhaps options. They involve ratepayer participation.
“Nineteen municipalities in Ontario have a bylaw that has the property owners responsible for sidewalk clearing,” Bruette said. “Public assistance is just a request at this point, not a bylaw (for C-K). Any help we can get is a great help budget wise.”
He expects the issue to come before council in the near future.
Bike lanes are also mentioned in the new provincial requirements. The guideline said they are to be cleared between eight and 24 hours after a storm, depending on the amount of snow that falls.
Bruette said any bike lanes that are attached to a road will be plowed once the main vehicular lanes are plowed.
“When a plow gets its route cleaned up, it will return to plow that bike lane,” he said.
In the case of the bike trail that runs along the north side of Grand Avenue and Grand River Line out to Prairie Siding, Bruette said it will be treated differently. Because it replaced a sidewalk from Keil Drive to past the college, it will be plowed like one all the way out to Bear Line.