Welles­ley to look at side­walk snow-clear­ing as part of 2018 bud­get talks

The Woolwich Observer - - FRONT PAGE - FAISAL ALI

WELLES­LEY TOWN­SHIP RES­I­DENTS MAY be re­lieved of side­walk-shov­el­ling duty, as coun­cil is look­ing at pro­vid­ing the ser­vice as part of its 2018 bud­get de­lib­er­a­tions.

The town­ship is crunch­ing the num­bers in­volved in ei­ther of­fer­ing the ser­vice in-house or con­tract­ing out. Those op­tions were con­sid­ered as coun­cil­lors met Tues­day night.

A staff re­port es­ti­mated the cost of clear­ing all 23 kilo­me­tres of mu­nic­i­pal side­walks, plus two kilo­me­tres of trails at about $105,000 a year, based on an av­er­age win­ter’s snow­fall if a pri­vate con­trac­tor did the work. The cost would be about dou­ble if the town­ship had to buy spe­cial­ized equip­ment and hire ad­di­tional staff to carry out the work.

The re­port was drafted fol­low­ing a dis­cus­sion in Au­gust when Welles­ley res­i­dent Nancy Kennedy ap­proached coun­cil with a pe­ti­tion to main­tain side­walks dur­ing the win­ter months. At the time, Mayor Joe Nowak raised the ques­tion of fund­ing for the ser­vice, with coun­cil de­fer­ring any de­ci­sion un­til staff could look into the lo­gis­tics and costs.

Cur­rently, Welles­ley by­laws re­quire in­di­vid­ual prop­erty own­ers to clear the side­walk in front of their homes or busi­nesses, typ­i­cally within 24 hours of a snow­fall. That rule ex­tends to in­sti­tu­tional prop­er­ties such as schools, churches and govern­ment build­ings.

A town­ship-wide ser­vice would re­move the onus from prop­erty own­ers, though at a cost.

The staff re­port noted the ex­pense could be cov­ered by a spe­cial levy as­sessed to ben­e­fit­ting prop­erty own­ers in the set­tle­ment ar­eas such as St. Cle­ments, Welles­ley, Hawkesville and Hei­del­berg. That’s the model used in Wool­wich Town­ship, where side­walk snow-clear­ing ser­vices are pro­vided in Elmira, at an av­er­age cost of about $35 a year. The town­ship bud­gets $70,000 for side­walk snow­clear­ing, but the ac­tual bill is de­ter­mined by the weather – the more snowy days, the higher the bill. Some years are mild, mean­ing the next year’s billing goes down. Other years it’s the op­po­site.

Wool­wich has de­bated the mer­its of the pro­gram, usu­ally based on the qual­ity of ser­vice – con­trac­tors are se­lected ev­ery three years. Past com­plaints about tardy ser­vice, qual­ity of the job and ripped up lawns have all been ad­dressed without can­celling the pro­gram, which has been favourably re­ceived for the most part.

Coun­cil ap­proved the ad­di­tion to its bud­get plan­ning without dis­cus­sion at Tues­day’s meet­ing. While that means a side­walk snow-clear­ing op­tion will be con­sid­ered in de­lib­er­a­tions for the 2018 bud­get, the de­ci­sion does not com­mit the town­ship to the ser­vice just yet.

For now, Welles­ley’s cur­rent by­law ap­plies, mean­ing res­i­dents will have to keep the shov­els ready for when the snow ar­rives. There can be a hefty penalty for fail­ing to clear the side­walk as re­quired, with a fine of up to $2,000. Own­ers can also be charged the cost of re­mov­ing the snow if they don’t com­ply.

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