Sidewalk clearing policies unchanged by Orangeville council for this winter

November 11, 2015   ·   0 Comments

By Tabitha Wells

Despite there being a small agenda for Monday night’s Orangeville Council meeting, there were a few hot topics, including a report from Council’s Snow Clearing Committee delivered by
Councillor Don Kidd.

The discussion began with a recommendation from Public Works that Council accept the committee’s recommendation to keep the current policy in place for the level of service for municipal sidewalks.

With the reasonings behind creation of the committee – complaints about property damage, certain sidewalks that hadn’t been plowed, over-salting/sanding, under salting/sanding – councillors looked for a little clarification on whether these concerns had been addressed.

“I was wondering if the chair could possibly update council on possible pilot projects that could be taking place,” asked Deputy Mayor Warren Maycock, indicating he was aware there had been some discussion.

Mayor Jeremy Williams indicated before Councillor Kidd could reply that he had been looking for several options the committee could have sug- gested, rather than just continuing to do things the way they have been done.

“It’s a challenging topic for a variety of reasons, however I did feel that with adequate discus- sion, some [other] options would be available,” said Mayor Williams. “We’re still going to have problems with destruction on lawns and we’re still going to have problems with the level or quality of clearing on sidewalks, which frankly is not up to the standard I had when I cleared my own walk.”

He added that he would not be supporting the motion as it stood, but asked Councillor Kidd to update them on any possible solutions they were looking into.

Councillor Kidd took the reins, beginning by disclosing a plan for a two-week trial period of a narrower plow, although at this time it is unknown when Orangeville will receive the plow for the test.

“Public Works wants to try that to see how it manages the different snow conditions,” explained Councillor Kidd. “Hopefully we get bad whether when we have our hands on that machine so we can see how it works.”

He added that the committee also considered the sidewalks Councillor Sylvia Bradley had asked to be plowed that are not currently being done.

(Sheila Duncan, the Town’s Communications Manager, said that while all sidewalks in town are plowed, trail’s aren’t. “I believe Sylvia Bradley was referring to trails.”)

“We discussed this two, maybe three times, and the committee felt that with the extra cost, it was something that wasn’t worth it,” he said.

When it comes to property damage, Councillor Kidd explained that he doesn’t foresee anything that can really be done about it.

“As far as the damage from the plows, there will always be damage,” he said. “This is one of those things where you are damned if you do, and you are damned if you don’t. I said this when you first asked me to do this committee. This is one thing where either you love it, or you don’t like it; there’s no changing it.”

Earlier this year, the snow clearing committee held an open house to find out the thoughts from the community and to see whether this was still something that local residents wanted. The results were over- whelmingly in favour of continuing to plow the residential sidewalks rather than leave the job to the residents.

Councillor Nick Garisto expressed concerns about the expense that the damage to properties costs the Town each year, stating that he hoped the smaller plow would reduce that impact. Currently, according to Doug Jones, Director of Public Works for the Town, the annual cost attributed to damage is about $35,000.

Another point of concern for Councillor Garisto was the additional cost in having an outside contractor plow the sidewalks. Currently, 50 percent of the sidewalks are done by seasonal employees hired by the Town at a cost of $140,000, while the con- tractor was paid $240,000 to do the other 50 percent last year.

“A lot of the difference in cost comes from the fact that with the way the struc- ture is tendered, there is a standby amount we pay to the contractor, regardless of how much snow actually falls,” explained Mr. Jones. “Their staff are on standby so that when we call them, they will respond, and there is a standby cost associated with that. With our staff, it they’re not clearing sidewalks, their time is coded to a different task.”

Although the contract has already been extended to the same contractor for the 2015-16 year, Mr. Jones added that Public Works would be looking into moving ahead with a new contract for the following win- ter, and suggested staff could investigate a few different options that could help save money prior to coming back to council. Councillor Sylvia Bradley asked whether it would be possible to look into how much it would cost doing it in-house with part- time town employees on call, rather than extending it to an external company.

“It’s certainly something we can consider,” replied Mr. Jones. “Right now, we do employ seasonal staff to help with plowing the roads in the winter on nights and week-ends to ensure that it’s done.”

He added that it is possible to do that, although any staff hired to do the side-walks would be coded specifically to that task if they were to be on call to plow all sidewalks.

“What I’m hearing from council is the desire to see an analysis on how we could run the service, and see whether we’re better to hire a contractor or hire seasonal staff to do it,” said Mr. Jones. “We’ll bring back recommendations for moving for- ward with putting a program together for the winter of 2016/2017.”

Council put the initial recommendation to vote, which passed with all but Mayor Williams in favour.

The second most discussed issue at Council on Monday night was the creation of the Wood Burning Committee, with Councillor Bradley, who will chair the committee, asking for clarification on specifically what Council is asking them to do.

“Initially the motion was to make a recommendation to Council on open-air burning,” she said. “But we have also been talking about outdoor burning, as well as outdoor burning appliances, and public education.”

Council decided that the committee will be looking at what Councillor Bradley had recommended, and not into indoor wood-burning appliances.

The motion to allow the committee to move forward in this direction passed 4-3, with Councillors Garisto and Scott Wilson and Deputy Mayor Maycock voting against it. None of the three voiced their reasoning for disagreement.

Later in the evening, Councillor Campbell presented a motion asking Council to reconsider the implementation of a Code of Conduct for elected officials in Orangeville, and Deputy Mayor Maycock expressed his intent to reiterate to the public that Council’s choice not to turn on Christmas lights prior to November 11 was for decorations on Town property only, and the public was welcome to do as they wish on their own properties.

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