When it comes to municipal snow removal, city sidewalks are low on the list of priorities.
Accustomed to receiving public input regarding road conditions and maintenance after heavy snowfall, city staff and council recently received two letters with a shared concern: snow removal from sidewalks.
In one of the letters, the writer comments on how, after snowfall on Dec. 21, there was ice and snow left on sidewalks all over town, except in front of downtown businesses where owners shovel their own snow. She urged the city make more of an effort to keep sidewalks clear, including on weekends.
In the second letter, writer Kathy McIntyre-Paul notes how city sidewalks aren’t touched until after roads are cleared. In the meantime, they are unusable due to the natural snowfall as well as the snow that plows push onto them.
And when sidewalks are cleared, they can become icy.
“I rarely use the sidewalks in winter,” writes McIntyre-Paul. “They are either unplowed or if they are, they have no sand or salt placed on them. With the typical cycles of cooling and warming in our region, ice is inevitable. I’ve fallen more than once on them.”
McIntyre-Paul adds that she, and others, would rather take their chances by walking on the road.
“While I know that sidewalks aren’t going to be perfect, it also seems to be the city could be doing a lot more to make them safe and usable,” writes McIntyre-Paul.
According to the City of Salmon Arm’s website, snow clearing is based on a “priority-based decision matrix,” in which sidewalks come last.
Top priority for the city are major arterial and collector routes, including 30th Street and Okanagan Avenue. This is followed closely by hospital, bus routes, school zones and severe hill areas, then major local routes (including 17th Street SE between Auto Road and Okanagan Avenue), and then gravel roads, lane ways, back alleys and dead-end roads.
“During and after a significant snowfall, the primary concern is keeping the arterial routes/major roads clear and passable,” explains the city’s website. “These routes may be done several times prior to other roads being done once, which can leave secondary roads noticeably unattended.
“With a significant snowfall it can be a challenge over several days to get all streets and sidewalks cleared.”
Council asked that staff respond to the letter writers and provide information on the city’s snow clearing policy.
“I think it’s really important that that be clarified because this is the most complaints I’ve seen in one session about sidewalks,” commented Coun.Kevin Flynn.
Mayor Alan Harrison said he and council would be meeting with staff about snow removal priorities, and that he, councillors and staff do respond to public concerns.
“In lots of cases, what I’ve found is, for example, the people who wrote letter number nine, I received an email after the next snowfall from that person, and I think staff did as well, saying thank you very much, you did a fantastic job this time,” commented Harrison. “So I think it is about education. If the snow only fell on one or two streets, and then waited an hour and fell on one or two more, then it would be easy. But it falls on all the streets at once and that is challenging.”