Greater Sudbury will be boosting sidewalk plowing next year, after city councillors approved a budget option that would have staff plow one side of all sidewalks in the city.
The option was a compromise between those who wanted to expand plowing to all 440 kilometres of sidewalks in the city, and those who preferred to keep costs down by maintaining current service levels. Currently, 325 km are plowed during winter.
At the Dec. 14 budget meeting, Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann supported expanding plowing to include all sidewalks, which would cost an estimated $1.3 million.
Approving that option wouldn't necessarily lead to full plowing, she said, but would direct staff to give a more detailed breakdown of equipment costs, which take several months to acquire.
Once they know that, Landry-Altmann said councillors can make a more informed decision. And it would be a sign the city is serious about becoming more pedestrian friendly.
“This is to keep the door open,” she said. “Winter maintenance on sidewalks is at the top of (budget) surveys … This is something our residents want (and it's) an important service enhancement that our residents have been asking for for a very long time.”
But Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti said he preferred a cheaper option, one that would expand plowing to include plowing sidewalks along all priority routes and arterial roads at a much lower cost, around $270,000.
“It will add some enhancement without breaking the bank,” Signoretti said.
He also called for staff to investigate whether it would be cheaper to lease the new equipment than buying it outright.
Infrastructure GM Tony Cecutti said regardless of which direction council decides to go, it will be next winter before the new equipment is ready to be used.
“It's really up to council to decide what level of service they want,” Cecutti said. “Allow us to work throughout the summer and fall” to get ready for the enhanced plowing, he added, since there “would be significant implications for the 2018 budget.”
“Do we get a lot of calls about sidewalks?” asked Ward 4 Coun. Evelyn Dutrisac. “Because I'm getting a lot of opposition to increasing taxes.”
“There are sidewalks in every ward people would like to see maintained that are not maintained,” Cecutti replied.
In some areas both sides are plowed, others neither. The routes are all based on what was plowed before amalgamation 16 years ago.
“So whatever was done before is still being done,” Cecutti said.
Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer said he agreed in principle with the idea of plowing all sidewalks.
“But perhaps it's not always necessary to plow both sides,” Sizer said. “I'd like to come back with a more fulsome report.”
In the end, councillors approved an option that would maintain existing sidewalk plowing, but expand it to include priority and arterial roads, as well as one side of all remaining sidewalks.
That option means about $240,000 in additional annual operating costs, as well as $310,000 for new equipment. City staff will present a report in the spring with more detailed costs estimates, as well as a comparison of costs between leasing and buying the equipment. The goal is to improve sidewalk plowing by next winter.