Sidewalk Snow Removal FAQ

snow

Here is a brief FAQ I put together about snow removal issues – there have been a lot of questions about sidewalk snow removal and I wanted to try and get as many answers together in one place as possible.

Please note this information is provided “as is” with no express or implied warranty for accuracy.  I’ll keep updating it, but the information is likely to change as my understanding and knowledge of the situation evolves.

Sidewalk Snow Removal 
Regional Council decided during budget debate last spring to include snow removal for sidewalks on the peninsula as a service included in the general tax rate.  As result, property owners are no longer required to clear snow from sidewalks in front of their properties as this is HRM’s responsibility through contracted services.  The costs of the service will be $17.00 per $100,000 assessment.  This amount will decrease in following years since the tender came in lower than projected.

Why did you vote for this change?
I didn’t support this motion since I believed it was important for residents to participate in a public process of learning about the service (the pros and cons) and then deciding through an area rate vote on whether they would like to have this service included on their tax bills. (read more here: http://wayemason.ca/2013/05/02/on-unexpected-sidewalk-snow-removal-and-tax-increases/ ), Council made this decision and we have to live with this for the rest of the winter.

Street & Sidewalk Clearing Standards

  • P1 Roads: 3 hour turnaround times and clear 12 hours following end of snowfall.
  • P2 Roads: Center line cuts for access after 10cm accumulation and cleared within 24 hours following the end of snowfall.
  • P1: Main Arterial Sidewalks, cleared within 12 hours following end of snowfall.
  • P2: Transit Sidewalks, cleared within 18hours following end of snowfall.
  • P3: Local Sidewalks, cleared within 36 hours from end of snowfall.
  • Transit shelters: cleared within 48 hours from end of snowfall, 15 metres back from front of bus.

Not sure what priority level your street is? Click this link: http://www.halifax.ca/Snow/StreetPriorityFinder.php

Please note – this is from end of snowfall, so with the storm on Friday and Saturday, it stopped snowing around 7 pm on Friday, which means the contractor had until 7am Sunday to clear sidewalks. The standard is bare pavement when weather allows, and/or navigable (sand or salt or grit). The sidewalk standards also apply to cutting through banks at street corners.

What if standards are not met?
The contractor MUST meet the standards unless we have an extraordinary event, which is 30 cm or more. The contractors have been made aware and will shortly be financially penalized for their failure to meet the set standards where identified. In anticipation of the need to more closely monitor standards (at least for the next period while pushing them to improve), HRM management has added an additional Supervisor resource to perform roving patrols to identify any missed locations to hopefully eliminate sub-standard performance.

We absolutely want citizens calling 311, but only if the contractor has expired the time component of the standard. Be sure to record the file number when you call 311; this will make follow up easier for you. In addition to providing staff with information on areas that need attention, calling 311 provides staff and Council with quantifiable data with which to measure the success or shortcomings of snow clearing.

HRM Winter Operations FAQ
Official answers to a variety of snow related questions:
http://www.halifax.ca/municipalops/Winter/WinterFAQ.html

Damage
Damage to property adjacent to the sidewalk caused by street or sidewalk snow removal efforts is the responsibility of the Municipality or contractor to repair, depending on who caused the damage. Residents should call 311 to report the damage, and HRM staff or the contractor will assess.  Repairs will be done based on the urgency of the damage; i.e. if it is a safety concern. Otherwise, this will wait until spring.  You will be given a file number that you should write down, that is how you will track the response to your complaint.

There is a bit of question about damage to planters or landscaping ‘over and above’ grass in the verge between sidewalks and the gutter. This land is technically in the “HRM Right of Way” and I am working to confirm with staff what HRM/contractors responsibility is to repair landscaping, flower boxes, decorative pavers, etc. I will update when I have more info.

Liability
Liability depends on the facts of the case, but generally homeowners would not be responsible for someone who slips and falls on a city sidewalk unless they were in some way responsible.  What this means in plainer English is if you shovel off your front steps into the sidewalk or water runs off your property and then freezes in the sidewalk, you have liability for that.

Bottom line: If water runs off your property and freezes you need to salt it. I have had to do this in front of my driveway all December.

 

  • Michael Dunn

    City takeover of sidewalk plowing is a dismal failure in my neighbourhood:

    Quality: Bob Cats can’t do as good a snow clearing job we citizens can do with our own shovels – as we have been doing for years. Many of us still get out ahead of the Bob Cats to clear the snow so we can make sure they have no snow to pack down into ice.

    Damage: Bob Cats have damaged trees, roots, lawns, bushes, and the sidewalks themselves all around my neighbourhood. Scars and debris are everywhere. A 12″x4″x3″ rock was dislodged from the ground by a Bob Cat and came to rest under my tire, which I only discovered when I drove up and over it.

    Time: There are way more homeowner/shovelers than Bob Cats, so we will always – and have in the past – get the snow removed faster than can any fleet of contractors. Some of my neighbours who used to be diligent about clearing the snow for pedestrians now don’t, and this winter has seen treacherous sidewalks all around where they used to be great.

    The cost of “free” to taxpayers and citizen engagement: This “free” service comes out of our tax assessments, so it’s not “free”. Also, making it free is a step backward for Halifax’s engaged citizenry. Communities around the world would kill to have what we had before this policy change: citizens who regularly step up and perform a civil maintenance exercise that benefits all with no cost to the tax base. We’ve thrown out this achievement, and for what? To avoid having to ask other post-amalgamation communities who never shovelled their sidewalks to pull up their citizen bootstraps and pick up their shovels with their bothers and sisters on the Peninsula and other areas?

    The right thing to do is to measure the full costs and benefits and see if we’re really better off. On the balance I bet we see the evidence piles up to cancel this policy change and go back to having property owners clear their sidewalks – together, as a community.

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