Saint John is refusing to take over a contract for the sanding and salting of the Saint John Harbour Bridge this winter because of the extra costs of meeting provincial standards.


The provincial government is looking to relinquish its role for salting and sanding the Saint John Harbour Bridge. (CBC)

The provincial government is trying to rid itself of the responsibility for clearing the bridge.

After looking at the possibility of assuming that contract, Saint John managers have decided it would be too costly for the city.

City managers said the provincial government is demanding the surface of the bridge be kept completely clear of snow and ice 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Bill Edwards, the city’s chief engineer, said that exceeds the standards of the city's streets and it would require the hiring of 12 new workers and the purchase of additional equipment.

For that reason, city staff recommended against taking over the contract for salting and sanding the bridge.

"We didn't see that there was any way that the city could turn this into a money generating scheme. We'd be lucky in our opinion to recover our costs," he said.

The city is already facing a pension deficit estimated at $193 million.

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Saint John Mayor Mel Norton said on Tuesday that reforming the pension plan would cost millions of dollars and would require "a fair bit of pain" for city residents.

While the city is trying to control its pension deficit, Saint John is also hosting a series of pre-budget meetings around the city.

The meetings are designed to give citizens a chance to weigh in on what services they want to keep and where they would like to see cuts.

The 2012 budget saw several cuts to city services and programs.

The city’s financial problems were at the centre of comments made by two councillors, who adopted different positions on the issue of taking over the bridge contract.

Coun. Shirley McAlary said the city would not make any money if it signed the contract so she agreed with the decision to take a pass on the proposal.

"So that's the only way I'd agree to taking over the Harbour Bridge for plowing was if it was in our benefit to do so. And this report certainly says it isn't," McAlary said.

But Coun. David Merrithew said he felt it was a logical move for the city to take on the contract because Saint John is looking to make some extra money.

"I don't know why it won't work," he said.

Merrithew said he is disappointed by the decision and said he wants to investigate the issue further with provincial officials.

Merrithew said he wants to speak with provincial Finance Minister Blaine Higgs again about the proposal before he's willing to give up on the idea.

The provincial government became responsible for the Saint John Harbour Bridge in 2011.

The federal government forgave the Saint John Harbour Bridge Authority's $22-million debt and then transferred it to the provincial govenrment.

The deal was contingent on the provincial government removing the tolls from the bridge.