City to plow sidewalks, streets sooner under new snow policy

After facing an avalanche of snow clearing complaints last year, city council has committed to boosting service. Changes to the city’s snow plowing policy that will see most sidewalks and streets plowed sooner was unanimously approved on Tuesday.

After facing an avalanche of snow clearing complaints last year, city council has committed to boosting service.

Changes to the city’s snow plowing policy that will see most sidewalks and streets plowed sooner was unanimously approved on Tuesday.

Mayor Tara Veer said the upgraded service levels were a “response to significant public feedback” during last year’s epic snowfalls prompting substantial revisions to the snow and ice policy.

Major changes have been made to residential street clearing. Previously, the city aimed to have all residential streets plowed down to pavement within 40 days, when conditions made driving difficult. City plows will now aim to shave the snow down to five cm on residential streets within 15 days. That timeline kicks in when snow has packed to 10 cm deep — a scenario that the city sees happening several times a season.

Veer said the old residential plowing policy was based on the discretion of the public works department, but now a clear trigger has been approved.

“In the interests of public transparency we’ve actually built in a standard around that.”

Collector roads and bus routes will be cleared in similar fashion within 20 days after reaching the 10 cm threshold. Commercial and industrial areas will be cleared in five days after reaching a snow pack of 15 cm.

Sidewalks are also going to get cleared faster. The most well-used routes will get plowed within four days, and lesser-used routes to eight days. That timeline will be further reduced next year.

Other changes residents will see is a new method of alerting them the plows are coming to their neighbourhood. Instead of sandwich board signs dotting sidewalks, large mobile display signs will be placed at subdivision entrances to warn residents 12 hours in advance.

The city is also introducing a permit system so private contractors can clear snow from city streets — a practice often aimed at windrows in front of driveways. Concerns over liability and damage to fire hydrants or other property had prohibited private operators from clearing city streets previously.

Now, they can buy a $50 permit from the city.

More changes are to come next year. For instance, sidewalks will be cleared within three days.

Council opted to adopt the new policies in two phases to allow the public works department to adapt and see how the changes are working.

Tuesday’s vote makes official in policy a decision already made during last January’s budget discussions that included a $1.7-million increase to the snow clearing budget.

Additional equipment to meet the new standards was also given the green light to the tune of $2.1 million.

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