Shawn Cleary continues push for changes to HRM's snow plans

Regional council is, yet again, going to talk about sidewalk snow clearing.

click to enlarge Cleary clearly cares about snow clearing. - RILEY SMITH
Cleary clearly cares about snow clearing.

The snow may be gone from Halifax—knock on wood—but Shawn Cleary still has winter on his mind. 

The councillor for Halifax West Armdale will be asking for two new staff reports at the next meeting of Regional Council that would allow residents to opt out of sidewalk snow clearing, and bring all of HRM's sidewalk snow and ice clearing in-house.

Residents of HRM were responsible to clear their own sidewalks up until 2013, when the city put the onus on municipal contractors. The result, Cleary says, is inconsistent clearing from district to district. There’s also the issue of equipment damaging property.

“Here on the peninsula especially—Districts 7, 8 and 9—we get tons of complaints and calls about the quality” of sidewalk clearing, says Cleary. “Just within the few streets around me, fences have been destroyed, stairs have been ripped off people’s front steps.”

Cleary has been outspoken aabout his snow clearing qualms on social media as well as at council. A report he called for back in December just came out last month, but Cleary says it didn’t contain all the information he wanted. In estimating how much it would cost to do snow clearing in-house, the report only applied the downtown costs.

“But downtown Halifax is like the most difficult sidewalk snow clearing you’ll ever find,” he says, pointing out that it costs less to clear residential areas such as Sackville and Bedford.

The report also noted that “sidewalk snow clearing will never be like road snow clearing,” as it will never get down to bare concrete.

“That kind of sets it up that it will never be as good as it would be if residents did it themselves—assuming that everyone went out and did it themselves,” says Cleary.

Now, he says, he’s “taking another stab at” getting council to look at shifting HRM's snow responsibilities.

“I don’t think it’s as expensive as staff let on for it to be,” he says.

Even if council votes for the staff reports, it'll be too late for any changes in time for next winter.

“There’s no way that, if they were gonna do it in-house, they could hire 400 people between now and October, November,” says Cleary, but the councillor believes this as an opportunity to map out a plan slowly and do it right.

“If it’s not gonna be done any better than it is now, then you might as well just take a wheelbarrow full of money down to City Hall and burn it in Grand Parade.”

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