Edmonton to review sidewalk snow and ice control policy

City councillor Andrew Knack is hoping Edmonton sidewalks will be cleaner and safer next winter than the condition they’re in now.

Councillors Andrew Knack, Aaron Paquette have questions they want answered

The sidewalk on the west side of 99th Street south of 76th Avenue. (Natasha Riebe/CBC)

City councillor Andrew Knack is hoping Edmonton sidewalks will be cleaner and safer next winter compared to the condition they're in now.

At a council meeting Tuesday, the Ward 1 councillor asked city administration to dive into the city's current snow and ice policy and find ways to improve it.

"It's not good enough right now," Knack said. "I've heard far too many examples and stories, primarily by seniors who can't drive anymore, that they can't even walk three or four blocks to the nearest grocery store."

Knack requested the information ahead of the city's revised snow and ice control policy due in August. The policy, he said, hasn't been updated fully since 2011. 

The current policy requires business and homeowners to keep sidewalks adjacent to their properties clear. Typically the city will allow 48 hours.

Knack noted that residents should be able to call the city's catch-all complaint line, 311, to have sidewalk issues resolved in a timely manner.

"That's not happening all the time."

Knack's inquiry asks city administration to report back with the following:

  • average time to resolve a complaint;
  • how resolving a complaint varies with repeat offenders;
  • determining who's responsible to address complaints in new communities where land ownership isn't clear;
  • how does a complainant know when a complaint is properly resolved?
  • is the complainant told how long it will take for sidewalks to be cleared?
  • options to improve reporting and investigation.

311 calls

Coun. Aaron Paquette is also asking city administration to report back with the number of "contacts" 311 receives a year related to snow and ice removal "so they can get a better picture on how we're doing in all areas of the city.

"We can compare and contrast. If one area's being taken care of a little bit better, we can find out why," Paquette said. "Is it design, is it practice?"

He wants the 311 snow and ice-related calls broken down into subcategories such as complaints about windrows, inquiries on use of the anti-icing agent calcium chloride, sand and requests for blading.

"We've been hearing from a lot of people that they would like to see an improvement in our snow and ice removal."

Edmonton city councillors Mike Nickel, left, and Andrew Knack, during budget deliberations last fall. (CBC)

Jeff Samsonow, past president of the Old Strathcona community league, said he has noticed people's perspectives changing in communities, especially in those getting new or upgraded sidewalks and bike lanes.

"A big part of those conversations seem to be now shifting toward how to make the neighbourhood more walkable, you know, people can get around it more easily no matter what their transportation method."

The city could look at various ways to get people to clear their sidewalks, including harsher penalties and better enforcement, Samsonow said.

A bylaw officer can issue a $100 ticket to people found neglecting their sidewalks.

Samsonow also suggested the city may want to consider taking over snow removal on sidewalks "so that it can be done consistently.

"In a winter city, we're just never really going to be able to cut that budget down very much," Samsonow said.

Knack and Paquette aren't dismissing the idea of having the city take on more responsibility for snow clearing.

Coun. Aaron Paquette wants details about calls to the city's 311 complaint line related to snow-and-ice removal. (John Shypitka/CBC)

Paquette is hopeful his inquiry will gauge public sentiment on future snow-clearing policy.

"People want us to save their money but at the same time they don't want us to do a half job," he told CBC News.

"So when we're trying to shave off a few million on the snow clearing budget but no one's happy, is that a success? Or would people prefer we spend the extra money in order to get the job done?"

The city spent just over $63 million in 2018 clearing city-owned roads and other property.

Responses to the councillors' inquiries are due in June before the city's revised snow and ice policy is presented to council in August.



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