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City staff recommend switch to former sidewalk snow removal policy for London, Ont.

According to the provincial mandate, sidewalks are expected to be cleared after eight centimetres of snow accumulation.
According to the provincial mandate, sidewalks are expected to be cleared after eight centimetres of snow accumulation. The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan

Two years after reducing the threshold for sidewalk snow removal, city staff in London, Ont., are suggesting council reverse the policy in an effort to save costs.

Budget discussions come as a “major” winter storm continues to blow its way through southern Ontario on Wednesday, with the Forest City expected to see upwards of 10 centimetres of snow by Thursday morning as a snowfall warning remains in effect for the region.

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According to the provincial mandate, sidewalks are expected to be cleared after eight centimetres of snow accumulation. However, in the fall of 2021, the city decided to exceed that requirement and updated its policy to begin plowing after five centimetres of snow falls in London.

Ward 2 Coun. Shawn Lewis supported the city’s choice to update the requirement two years ago. But now, he said he supports the proposed recommendation to switch back.

“I did support the change, but what I’ve seen over the last couple of years is really no change in Londoners’ experience, in terms of sidewalk accessibility, the number of complaints that city councillors get, and honestly, we didn’t add that many extra deployments by going down from eight centimetres to five centimetres,” he said.

Doug MacRae, director of transportation and mobility said “it is difficult to gauge public satisfaction with winter operations, as there are so many factors at play.”

He said city staff are looking to revert back to provincial standards due to current financial pressures.

“The cost savings would be $740,000,” he said, adding that “socio-economic equity, governance and environmental considerations are all part of the decision-making process.”

The policy reversal was suggested by city staff in a series of budget amendments being presented to council’s strategic priorities and policy committee on Thursday. Those suggested amendments can be read in full in a report attached to the committee’s agenda.

“Instead of continuing to spend money on something where we’re not seeing a service improvement isn’t the way to go,” Lewis said. “Accessibility and mobility are important, but we’re not getting the job done…. We need to step back and rethink this issue.”

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