The debate continues about whether the City of Hamilton should take over the responsibility for clearing snow from all of its 2,403 kilometres of sidewalk.
Hamilton councillors have asked for a staff report by August into the perceived benefits and challenges associated with taking the responsibility off the hands of private homeowners.
In preparing that report, the city will consult with groups that represent various stakeholders, including parents of young children, seniors and Hamiltonians with disabilities.
The staff report will also study what other cities are doing and how well it is working for them.
City councillors voted to request the staff report on Thursday, two days after they heard from more than 20 delegates at a budget feedback session, many of them asking for universal sidewalk snow clearing despite a projected cost to municipal taxpayers of up to $5.3 million per year.
Ward 2 Coun. Nrinder Nann is among the service’s most vocal supporters arguing that the “freedom of movement to our residents that choose to be pedestrians” is at stake, adding that “they should be guaranteed a level of service that does not further burden their existence in our city.”
Stoney Creek Coun. Maria Pearson counters that she’s not willing to put the added burden on taxpayers, particularly seniors on fixed incomes, insisting that she has “residents that have continually said, ‘do I pay for my medication or do I pay for my taxes?'”
She argues that the city should focus on beefing up enforcement of its existing bylaw that requires property owners to clear sidewalks following a snowfall.
Ward 8 Coun. John Paul Danko says he hopes Thursday’s debate means “we’re making progress on this, and it’s not just analysis to delay a final decision.”