The Town of The Blue Mountains is considering a plan to phase-in an expansion of its sidewalk snow-plowing program over the next three years.
At its committee of the whole meeting on Nov. 28, council voted 5-1 in favour of sending a staff plan/report about sidewalk snow clearing to the 2024 budget process for further discussion. The plan, if implemented, would, over three years, expand sidewalk snow-clearing services to Lora Bay and Craigleith.
Coun. Alex Maxwell voted against the resolution and Deputy Mayor Peter Bordignon was absent.
Over the past couple of years, the town has been considering ways to expand sidewalk snow clearing by bringing the service in-house as a full municipal operation. Currently, the town plows sidewalks in Thornbury and Clarksburg and sidewalks near Blue Mountain Resort are serviced via an agreement with a contractor.
Shawn Carey, the town’s operations director, explained that staff forwarded the phase-in approach for council’s consideration in light of the 2024 budget target of a 2.5 per cent increase.
“We’ve taken a step back and found some opportunities to reduce costs,” he said.
Earlier this year, council considered a sidewalk snow plowing expansion as part of the 2023 budget. However, council later decided to push the idea to the 2024 budget.
Under the plan in the staff report, in the first year of the plan (24-25) the town would continue with the existing level of service. The second year (25-26) would see sidewalk clearing expanded to Lora Bay. Year three (26-27) would see an expanded service available in Craigleith.
The report presented two financial possibilities to help pay for sidewalk clearing. One option would see the program continuing to be financed on a town-wide basis, meaning sidewalk snow clearing would remain a general municipal expense like others.
A second option would see a special area tax rate applied to properties in the settlements areas of the community receiving the sidewalk service. In other words, property owners in Thornbury, Clarksburg, Craigleith and Lora Bay would pay extra on their taxes for sidewalk snow clearing.
Council made no decision on the financial options, but Mayor Andrea Matrosovs said the area rating option would be a tough sell.
“We don’t count who is using what,” said Matrosovs, pointing out that she may live outside of the urban areas, but she uses sidewalks when she visits town. “I would be deeply concerned if we start parsing it by specific addresses.”
The issue will return to the council table during the upcoming budget meetings.