Kitch­ener to fight snow with four new by­law of­fi­cers

Waterloo Region Record - - Local - CATHER­INE THOMP­SON cthomp­son@there­ Twit­ter: @Thomp­sonRecord

KITCH­ENER — Kitch­ener is more than tripling the num­ber of by­law of­fi­cers it will have pa­trolling the city’s streets this win­ter to make sure side­walks are shov­elled.

At a cost of $170,000 a year, the city is hir­ing four con­tract by­law of­fi­cers, who will fan out across the city from Novem­ber to April, on the look­out for snow-choked side­walks.

Up un­til now, the city had just 1.5 by­law po­si­tions ded­i­cated to snow shov­el­ling in win­ter.

The city re­quires prop­erty own­ers to clear side­walks within 24 hours af­ter a snow­fall. But un­til now, the city only en­forced the by­law when it got a com­plaint about an un­shov­elled walk. The re­sult has been a patchy net­work of 1,200 kilo­me­tres of side­walks that of­ten are im­pass­able in win­ter, es­pe­cially for those with a dis­abil­ity.

That led to a call last year for the city to fol­low the ex­am­ple of sev­eral other On­tario cities and take over re­spon­si­bil­ity for shov­el­ling side­walks, rather than re­ly­ing on in­di­vid­ual prop­erty own­ers. But coun­cil balked at the cost, po­ten­tially in the mil­lions of dol­lars, and in­stead opted for stepped-up en­force­ment of the ex­ist­ing by­law.

“It will be a bit of a game changer in terms of ac­ces­si­bil­ity for res­i­dents,” said Glo­ria Mac­Neil, Kitch­ener’s di­rec­tor of by­law en­force­ment. “We’ve al­ways been in a po­si­tion where we re­ceive quite a vol­ume of com­plaints and we’re al­ways re­act­ing.”

The by­law of­fi­cers will mon­i­tor all 10 wards of the city, driv­ing to a spot and then pa­trolling on foot.

They’ll con­cen­trate on res­i­den­tial ar­eas — that’s where most com­plaints orig­i­nate — and fo­cus on high-traf­fic area, ar­eas near schools, parks and other des­ti­na­tions, and ar­eas where there have been lots of com­plaints in the past, said Aaron McCrim­mon-Jones, who is man­ag­ing the snow shov­el­ling ef­fort.

Mac­Neil said ac­ces­si­bil­ity for pedes­tri­ans should im­prove for two rea­sons. First, prob­lems should get dealt with more quickly. “With us be­ing out there proac­tively look­ing, we will find the prob­lem ar­eas quicker. We’re not wait­ing for that per­son to be frus­trated and call in a com­plaint,” she said.

Sec­ond, Mac­Neil hopes more peo­ple will make the ef­fort to shovel the side­walk in front of their house, just be­cause they re­al­ize there are peo­ple ac­tively look­ing to make sure they do. “Hope­fully, that will get a more pos­i­tive re­sponse, and peo­ple will get out and clear the snow, rather than wait­ing for us to is­sue them a no­tice and then re­act­ing.”

Kitch­ener re­ceived about 1,600 com­plaints about un­shov­elled side­walks last year, Mac­Neil said. Peo­ple are en­cour­aged to call 519-741-2345 to re­port prob­lems.

By­law of­fi­cers will is­sue a warn­ing the first time, which solves the prob­lem in 90 per cent of cases. If the side­walk is still snow-cov­ered on a re­turn visit, city staffers will clear the walk and bill the home­owner, a cost that av­er­ages about $280 but can run as high as $400.

The four new of­fi­cers will also be col­lect­ing data about which ar­eas seem to get more snow and ice, side­walk con­di­tions and so on. Coun­cil will get a re­port in late spring.

The city is also in­tro­duc­ing two other mea­sures to help keep side­walks snow-free: it’s spend­ing $26,700 to pro­vide side­walk shov­el­ling ser­vices for 50 se­niors and dis­abled peo­ple, and of­fer­ing 10 grants of $500 to buy snow­blow­ers that neigh­bour­hoods can share. Some of those grants are still avail­able — you can ap­ply at kitch­­es­thescoop.

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