Halifax expects new snow-clearing contract will solve problems experienced last year
HALIFAX -- Halifax is expected to receive its first significant snowfall of the winter and the municipality is in preparation mode.
After facing criticism last winter, HRM has negotiated new contracts with companies responsible for clearing the sidewalks.
"What would normally take 10 minutes for me to wheel would take 45," said accessibility advocate Brian George. "I got stuck numerous times and it was just unacceptable."
George is one of the many Haligonians who has horror stories about the struggles of navigating icy sidewalks last winter.
"It's not even just about accessibility issues, it's anyone with a stroller, a walker," George said. "Lots of people were having issues getting around last winter and I hope they improve things this year."
The city says that's the goal and the reason why they have awarded new, four-year contracts to four companies who will be responsible for clearing city sidewalks.
"All contractors are expected to meet the service standards as well as the parameters that are outlined in the tender," said HRM spokesperson Erin DiCarlo.
In total, council has budgeted $14.8 million on sidewalk clearing over the next four years.
Despite the safety and accessibility problems caused by inadequate clearing last winter, Halifax Regional Coun. Matt Whitman is concerned about the cost.
"I wasn't impressed with the negotiation, every one of the companies came back a lot higher than previous years, all millions of dollars higher, and we didn't even take the lowest bidder which really frustrated me," Whitman said.
George said he blames the city for what happened last year and hopes they've learned a lesson.
"I can't help but blame the city," George said. "When the winter was over, the city was bragging about how they saved all this money with snow clearing, but I felt like, quite frankly they just didn't do enough."
The city confirms Tracey's Landscaping was not offered a contract, after a staff report determined their clearing efforts last year weren't up to HRM standards, and that their bid was unrealistically low compared to the other bids received.
Tracy's landscaping could not be reached for comment.
The city also hopes a new piece of gear that was purchased last march will help to keep things clear.
"The municipality is always exploring new and innovative ways to improve service, and one of the pieces of equipment that was purchased last season was the ice breaking machine, that can be used on sidewalks throughout the region and it's really helpful in breaking up that thick stubborn ice we saw after many of last year's storms," DiCarlo said.
George and others hope that new technology will help create a clearer path to clear sidewalks.