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Clear sidewalks citywide - committee

Herb Mathisen
Northern News Services
Published Friday, April 11, 2008

YELLOWKNIFE - Don't put those shovels away just yet.

The city's transportation issues committee has recommended extending the mandatory snow clearing of sidewalks from the downtown area to the rest of residential Yellowknife.

The recommendation was made at Monday's meeting of the Priorities, Policies and Budget Committee.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Roland Hiesinger shovels large chunks of snow from his sidewalk in 2004. With the recommendation made by the transportation issues committee to city council Monday morning, Yellowknife sidewalks may never again be so neglected. - NNSL file photo

Coun. David Wind urged council "to bring forward a bylaw to compel owners adjacent to sidewalks around the city to clear snow from their sidewalks in a reasonable amount of time."

He added that he hoped to get the ball rolling on this initiative now, instead of in the fall at the beginning of another snow season.

Last year, the city extended the existing bylaw from the downtown core to the Baker Centre on 57 Street, after seniors presented a petition to council.

Most councillors seemed to support the recommendation, although Coun. Paul Falvo was curious about the costs associated with implementing and enforcing the bylaw. Councillors Kevin Kennedy and Dave McCann also shared this concern.

McCann voiced his agreement with the suggestion, in that it would help "to make this city a more walkable city in the winter time. We want to get our people walking more."

Mayor Gord Van Tighem requested city administration take a look at the amount of work and costs that would go into creating a residential snow clearing bylaw.

Vivian Squires, executive director of the Yellowknife Seniors' Society, welcomed the recommendation.

"It's really difficult to walk with all the ice and snow," she said, adding that uneven surfaces affect not only seniors, but persons with disabilities and also the general public.

"That's good news because there are a lot of streets you can't walk on," she said.

Wednesday afternoon at a popular coffee shop and notorious sounding-off point for city residents, the general consensus was that this would be a positive initiative.

"I would be supportive of it," said Ernie Watson, who has a house in the Range Lake area.

He said snow clearing is sporadic in his area and said a bylaw would benefit pedestrians.

Mike Kenney, a Borden Drive resident, was also in favour of the idea.

"Every other city I've lived in, that has been the law," said Kenney.

He said there should be some exemptions for people who would have trouble with snow clearing, such as the elderly, for instance.

"The city should give them some assistance," he said. "But able bodied people should be able to do it."

Councillors also discussed the merits of establishing a Good Citizenship Award to promote sidewalk clearing. The award would be given to a Yellowknife resident who exemplified commitment to the community by clearing their own and their neighbours' sidewalks of snow.

Coun. Falvo said some businesses have already agreed to donate prizes and nominations have started to trickle in.

"It is cost neutral to the city," he said, and was in support of the proposal, although he added the criteria of the award would have to be restricted to transportation issues.

"If it becomes a council award, businesses may not want to donate prizes to council," said Falvo, who said the transportation committee meets as volunteers, while city council has a large budget that serves the community.