The bulk of the discussion about a new draft snow removal policy at the Dec. 12 council meeting centred around whether the District should take on the responsibility for clearing sidewalks.
Coun. Scott Medlock and Mayor Wilfried Vicktor supported the policy, with no noticeable opposition from other councillors. However, District operations director Kevin Dicken cautioned council on the implications on liability, cost and property owner’s responsibility.
The conversation started when Coun. Gerry Dyble asked about sidewalk maintenance responsibilities.
The new procedure elaborates that a residential property owner shall remove snow or ice from sidewalks or pathways adjacent to their property within 24 hours of snow accumulation except for weekends or holidays. Commercial or industrial property must do it before 10 a.m. daily.
Dyble wanted to know whether the District could relieve this responsibility in consideration of seniors.
Dicken noted that this would come at a cost, and that snow clearing could either be done in-house or with contractors.
The former method would be more reliable, but would require new equipment and more labour.
Dicken said hiring a contractor would cost an estimated $2,500 per event. The challenge with contractors lies in their availability. They might not be able to continuously maintain sidewalks during a snow event, unless the District finds a contractor that works solely for the District.
Coun. Scott Medlock noted that he preferred the contractor route rather than doing it in-house because the District does not have the equipment nor the labour.
“Moving forward, I think it’s a service that the public is definitely asking for and it’s relatively low cost and a high value,” said Medlock.
Medlock furthered that having a machine clear the sidewalks the first time, it would make it easier for residents to continue the maintenance.
Mayor Wilfried Vicktor said because Hope does not get much snow a year, spending a few thousands per year would be “money well spent.”
“I think it’s a value-added service that historically we have provided,” said Vicktor. “A lot of people miss it.”
The conversation then turned into liability. At present, because the policy demands that property owners clear their sidewalks, the liability is placed on the property owner. However, if the municipality takes up that responsibility, it also takes up the liability.
Dicken suggested that if a contractor is tasked to do this, the contract drawn up must hold them to having the sidewalks done in a set amount of time.
Dicken also cautioned that by putting the onus on the District to clear snow, property owners will neglect maintaining their sidewalks.
“They’ll just expect the municipality to do that,” said Dicken.
Medlock agreed, but said “maybe that’s OK.”
Beyond sidewalk maintenance, Coun. Gerry Dyble also asked Dicken to explain the new procedure of starting snow plowing immediately upon accumulation.
Dicken explained that the latter change reflects what the District already does during a snow event and that Canadian case law has ruled that towns must act immediately upon accumulation.
Coun. Heather Stewin asked whether the District would incur any liability for plowing snow to the middle of the roads because of the lack of visibility at intersections.
Dicken replied that this is unclear, noting that the District has no other place to put the snow, before hauling out the snow, which is piled into the Hope Sports Bowl.
The snow removal policy will be discussed in a further committee of the whole meeting after staff investigates questions raised.