Fallout from storm reignites debate over sidewalk clearing
Published Thursday, January 3, 2019 9:40PM AST
Last Updated Thursday, January 3, 2019 9:48PM AST
The old saying goes, if you want something done right, do it yourself -- and that's what some people are saying about sidewalk clearing in Halifax.
It used to be up to property owners to clear their own sidewalks, but the municipality took over five years ago. The icy mess left behind after the most recent storm has at least one councillor suggesting it may be time to reconsider.
It’s a subject about as slippery as the sidewalks.
Navigating slippery side streets continues to be difficult more than 48 hours after a winter storm left them caked with ice.
“It's so treacherous, I'm scared about falling down, and yesterday I slipped so much, I skated down this road on my feet right past the mailman,” said Christopher Doucette. “He was laughing, I was just sliding from that hill right on down.”
As snow removal crews continue their work some residents are feeling fed up.
“I just think that whoever is hired by the city to do the sidewalks has failed miserably so far this winter,” said Caroline Anderson. “Last night, I had to walk on the street, I couldn’t even walk on the sidewalk.”
Accessibility advocate Brian George says the failure to properly clear sidewalks has a greater impact on those who rely on wheelchairs to get around.
“The biggest problem I've noticed is the bus stops,” George said. “Some of them are not clear and they might attempt to clear them, but when they only clear about a foot path for the door to open, well when you're in a wheelchair that is almost 30 inches wide, that doesn't really help.”
All the problems have prompted some people to ask “is there a better way?”
“I just wish there was a way that we could talk to the powers to be about what's happening with the sidewalks,” Anderson said. “I mean, I really preferred when we did our own.”
At least one Halifax regional councillor is listening and has strong opinions that the current system isn't cutting it.
“If you look at the service difference, the quality and walkability of sidewalks now versus five years ago, I don't think they are better now than they were five years ago,” said District 9 Coun. Shawn Cleary.
Halifax Regional Municipality took over sidewalk clearing duties in 2013, using a mix of municipal employees and contracted crews.
“It was a council direction there to move into giving the control, the snow and ice being delivered by our services,” said Trevor Harvie, the city’s winter supervisor of operations. “It's always something that council could re-entertain, but by all means if someone wants to help out and clear in front of their property we would never take that away from them.”
Cleary, who represents Halifax Armdale West has made several motions to reevaluate the city's snow-clearing system since being elected in 2016.
“What I'd love to see is either us improve the service and make it so able-bodied people and disabled people can easily get around on our sidewalks,” said Cleary. “Or, if we can't do that, admit it and give the job back to the residents in the residential areas and say look, you clean the sidewalks, we'll do the downtown and the main streets, and we'll just make sure we're all responsible enough to keep it clear.”
The fallout of this week’s storm is reigniting a debate that is expected to gain traction in council, as residents continue to struggle for traction on the streets.
Cleary has brought three motions to council over the last two years about this issue. The first two were voted down, and a staff report is currently being conducted on the third.
He says he plans on bringing up the topic at next Tuesday's budget discussion at the first council meeting of 2019.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Allan April.