The first taste of winter was bitter for some Elmira residents unhappy with the sidewalk snow-clearing service.
The snow that fell last week was followed by a string of complaints to the township office: the contractor was slow to get out, sections were missed or cleared poorly and edges of lawns were ripped up by the equipment, among others criticisms.
“We’ve been getting some complaints, including sidewalks not being cleared in a timely fashion,” said Dan Kennaley, Woolwich’s director of engineering and planning.
He attributed some of the difficulties to the fact a new contractor has just been hired to clear the sidewalks, adding he expects the company, Creative Asphalt and Landscape Works of St. Clements, to get up to speed quickly.
“We do have to be a little patient for a little while as they sort things out … but if there’s a learning curve, it’s going to be a steep one.”
The snow that fell last week might be taken as a warm-up, but the township will be looking for improvements, said Kennaley even as another snowfall got underway Tuesday.
Ward 1 Coun. Ruby Weber said complaints mean she’ll be keeping an eye on the situation. She was, however, somewhat sympathetic, recalling some of the same issues when sidewalk snow-clearing first began in Elmira. Then, too, there were many complaints about lawns being torn up.
“That’s bound to happen when they plow before the ground is frozen,” she said of last week’s sudden arrival of wintry conditions after a mild November.
As with past years, any damage done to lawns will be repaired in the spring, Kennaley noted.
High on the priority list for improvements is the snow-clearing down at school crosswalks.
“We’ve had some complaints from the crossing guards about the way [access points] were cleared around those walkways.”
Kennaley had been hoping for a better start under the new contract, having raised the bar given past complaints about the service in town. Under terms of the contract, the company will be expected to clear out any snow its crews push onto people’s driveways and to pay special attention to clearing handicap parking spaces, for instance.
The township has budgeted $70,000 for sidewalk snow clearing. The money is collected from a special levy of some $20 a year collected from each Elmira homeowner.
For the rest of the township’s residents, snow will mean clearing their own sidewalks under a sidewalk snow-clearing bylaw that was modified earlier this year. The language of the bylaw was made more specific, indicating that clearing of snow does not necessarily require removal down to the concrete, but to a level of no more than 3.8 centimetres (1.5 inches). As for ice, there is an expectation that residents will spread something akin to pickled sand (sand laced with some salt) on the surface should ice accumulate.
As well, the revised bylaw now makes the township responsible for any sidewalk where snow has been pushed onto the walkway to a depth of more than a foot by road-clearing operations. Previously, that practice was limited to so-called curb-face sidewalks, such as those adjacent to major roads.