Calgary seniors say ‘we all fell down’ as committee mulls increased snow removal for sidewalks

Residents say icy city sidewalks in the southeast are a risk for pedestrians. Courtesy: Joe Penney

A city committee is recommending some increased spending to clear pathways and sidewalks of snow and ice.

The city’s current budget for snow and ice clearing is about $39-million with $3.4-million going to sidewalk spaces.

But after a long and trecherous winter, Councillor Druh Farrell felt something needed to be done.

Going all in to have every sidewalk and pathway cleared would be a $40-million hit, which is a non-starter for Farrell.

“Improvements can’t happen overnight,” Farrell told the committee. “But we need to start and for this next winter, what can we reasonably achieve?”

She is also hopeful that the new money will help set expectations for the next four-year budget cycle.

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The report is also recommending a fine structure for property owners who don’t clear their sidewalks, something Farrell agrees with but hopes they got a step further with.

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“There is repeated visits to the property at an expense to the city and so, at the very least, have cost recovery,” Farrell said after the meeting. “But also increasing fines for those repeat offenders will help pay for more bylaw officers who will help monitor the situation.”

Farrell said it was emotional hearing about some of the issues Calgarians were facing, as many packed into the meeting to tell their stories.

Lois Kelly lives in the East Village and said windrows created a nightmare for seniors and the disabled this past winter.

“The winter from hell,” Kelly described to the committee. “One elder said to me, ‘Like the nursery rhyme, we all fell down.'”

They had to walk out onto the street to avoid walking over windrows and other icy sections, making it even more dangerous, she added.

The committee is requesting an extra $500,000 for 100 kilometres of pathways, as well as $2-million more for all sidewalks adjacent to city property and an extra $1-million to plow windrows away from high-priority wheelchair ramp locations.

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“To me, this felt like being in prison,” Ellen McGregor added about being immobilized by the snow as she depends on a scooter and walker to get around. “My independence is very important to me and when I have to reply on other people to get the things I needed, it made me feel helpless.”

The report will be in council’s hands later on this year.

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