Nova Scotia

Improper sidewalk clearing in Halifax 'a disservice,' says councillor

A Halifax councillor says city-hired contractors are inconsistently and incompletely clearing hundreds of kilometres of sidewalks in the municipality.

'On one street you could get bare concrete, on another you could get 3 inches of snow'

City spokeswoman Tiffany Chase says it's not possible for residents to have their sidewalks taken off the municipal clearing service. (CBC)

A Halifax councillor says independent contractors hired by the city to clear snow-covered sidewalks are leaving some walkways so ice-packed that residents are afraid to venture out on them.

Coun. Shawn Cleary​ told CBC's Information Morning his constituents in Halifax West Armdale have complained this winter that sidewalks are not being properly cleared.

"On one street you could get bare concrete, on another you could get three inches of snow or compacted snow which turns into ice," he said.

Cleary said some homeowners have told him their property has been damaged by snow-removal equipment. 

He has brought forward a motion at council to look at snow clearing in the municipality.

"We can't claim to be accessible when we have three inches of snow and ice on our sidewalks and people are afraid to get around, in fact injuring themselves, or housebound as a result of it."

Wrong equipment for the job

Cleary said part of the problem is the equipment city-hired contractors are using. 

"The Bobcat in particular, the shovel is too wide for most of our sidewalks, especially in the old part of Halifax where you have people's houses with very little setback to the sidewalk," said Cleary.

"So they will come along and rip up sod, they'll rip up the railway ties, they knock over concrete steps.

"I think last year there was over $200,000 in damage just in the peninsula alone that had to be remediated after the Bobcats went by people's fences, sidewalks and so on."

Coun. Shawn Cleary of District 9 says he's received hundreds of complaints about the city's sidewalk clearing. (CBC)

West-end resident asks crews to stay away

Norma Jean O'Hara, a resident in the city's west end, spoke out last week about the damage that's been done to her property since the city started clearing sidewalks.

Her 20-year-old hedge has been damaged and uprooted repeatedly over the last four winters. 

"You couldn't imagine how they gutted it, you really couldn't," she said.

Now O'Hara has a sign posted on her property telling the snow-removal crews not to clear her sidewalk.

'We do what we can'

Municipal spokeswoman Tiffany Chase told Information Morning last week it's not possible for residents to have their sidewalks taken off the municipal clearing service. 

She said there's more than 1,000 kilometres of sidewalks in the city.

"We do what we can as much as possible to work with citizens," she said.

Cleary said he wants the city to consider buying its own equipment and providing the service rather than outsourcing the work to independent contractors.

He said a report on the topic is expected in April.

With files from Information Morning

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