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