January 16, 2014 - 12:06 PM
VERNON - The City of Vernon is on a slippery slope when it comes to handling sidewalk clearing.
Last year, the city shifted snow clearing responsibilities to property owners, but not everyone is abiding by the new rules, and that’s creating safety concerns.
Vernon bylaw officers say the owners of a Pottery Road property are not clearing the adjacent sidewalk, which is frequently used by students. There have been similar compliance issues in the Turtle Mountain and Silver Star Foothills subdivisions.
Coun. Juliette Cunningham can understand why certain property owners are having trouble with the new policy.
“Last week we did get quite a few phone calls from concerned residents that it really doesn’t make sense for them... some of them have to get in their car and drive quite a ways,” she says.
It’s not always as simple as clearing a patch of sidewalk in front of your house. Some residents, like those on Pottery Road, live a good distance from where their property meets the sidewalk.
“When we made the decision around the changes for sidewalk snow removal, we may not have totally realized the consequences for that,” Cunningham says.
Charging residents fees for spot snow removal may be an option, but Mayor Rob Sawatzky is concerned about fairness.
“I think its difficult to treat the provision of services unevenly,” he says.
The winter before council decided to stop clearing sidewalks bordering private properties (2012/2013) cost the city $50,000 in snow removal.
Coun. Mary Jo O’Keefe notes sidewalk clearing isn’t just a winter issue—fallen branches and other debris can cause safety issues all year round.
“I would like to know who ends up with the liability,” O’Keefe says.
City staff were directed to investigate options, including charging fees and are expected to provide information in the next couple of weeks.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014