Last week, Town Council discussed the possibility of increasing snow clearing, and last night's council meeting on December 7 saw the council pass a motion to increase areas of coverage.
The changes proposed were to clear the sidewalks down Highway 817, as snow would pile up on the sidewalks as the highway itself got cleared. Council discussed that this is primarily because Highway 817 is cleared by a third party rather than the Town, and when the Town clears roads they generally avoid piling snow onto sidewalks. Given that the issue remains regardless of who's in charge though, the Town has added sidewalk clearing on Highway 817 as a priority 1 route.
The Town will also increase coverage for Waddy Lane. Near the Wheatland Lodge, it will be priority 1, while the rest of Waddy Lane and First Avenue will be priority 3. This clearing is meant to make walking around more accessible to the seniors living in the Lodge.
While the motion passed, it went through a lot of debate prior to the motion passing. While all councillors agreed that clearing roads is a good thing, some were concerned about the way they were going about it. Councillors Jason Montgomery and Brent Wiley expressed concerns that some may view it as preferential treatment.
"I wonder if we're setting a precedent by taking care of certain sidewalks for people but not other sidewalks for people. I'm wondering if this should remain the responsibility of the Lodge since it is on their sidewalks essentially. I certainly support doing something about the crosswalks, as that is our territory," Montgomery said.
Town of Strathmore's Operations Manager Donna McCallum responded by explaining the Lodge does clear their own sidewalks, but when it gets covered again by the Highway 817 snow clearing it can be problematic. Wiley said this would be frustrating so he's on board with the 817 sidewalk clearing, but had concerns about Waddy Lane.
"Of course, I would hate to see our seniors out there navigating drifts of snow across crosswalks, but at the same time, I see in the policy that administration recommends that we consider all residents and businesses to provide a fair, consistent, and sustainable level of service. My concern is that if we make this change to the Waddy Lane residents, that other stake holders could then very rightly ask for similar levels of service," Wiley said.
Montgomery however saw it in the opposite way, where he views the sidewalks as the private citizen's responsibility, but the roads and crosswalks as the Town's. As for Wiley's concern that the Town may not be able to justify clearing Waddy lane over other areas, Montgomery explained there's fair reason to choose this area over others.
"Why those crosswalks, and not other crosswalks? That's a good question, and I would point to the difference of lifestyle of people staying in their homes through their senior years, and those people are choosing to be responsible for the upkeep of their properties. Whereas with the Lodge, it's a higher concentration of people that are of senior age, so I think it's a way to get good value for our dollar because there's more people concentrated there. And just in general the people at the Lodge are on average probably less able or less likely to live independently," he said.
Montgomery also said he was worried that clearing crosswalks could potentially create windrows, which would make driving harder. Regardless of the debate and potential concerns, all councillors did vote to pass the motion to increase snow coverage, as they all agreed this was a good thing for the town to do.
Some may have noticed that Westmount School was absent from clearing, despite the fact that it is the only school without snow clearing under the Town of Strathmore. Councillor Denise Peterson explained this is because the town was specifically asked not to take this responsibility on, as this falls under an independent contractor and if the town took the route they would take this contractor's business away.
A Citizen Communications Form is available to residents on the strathmore.ca for issues or concerns regarding snow removal or other town operations
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