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City taps rainy day fund for boost to Calgary snow clearing

Pedestrians have spoken and city council has approved a $9 million boost to its snow-clearing efforts.

The pitch was first spearheaded by Ward 7 Coun. Druh Farrell after last season’s particularly snowy winter.

During a committee meeting three weeks ago, seniors, those with disabilities and others lined up to share their stories with a council committee about the impacts of poor sidewalk clearing in the city.

Farrell said there’s an economic cost to the city as well.

“We also heard from business associations talking about how it was hard on their business,” she said. “This is not just a human impact. It has business impact.”

Although administration looked at costs for various scenarios, it recommended a targeted approach with a price tag of about $9 million.

The improvements Calgarians will see next winter include snow-and-ice clearing to an additional 100 kilometres of pathways and better wheelchair ramp clearing at several hundred high-traffic locations near seniors’ homes.

The city will also start living up to its own expectation of residents, and clear all sidewalks adjacent to city property within 24 hours. That move alone is expected to cost between $3 and $5 million.

Coun. Jyoti Gondek urged her fellow councillors to support the motion, reminding them that we are all practicing to be seniors.

“Every one of us is a pedestrian at some point in our journey – we have to grapple with whether not we really want to change how we do things,” she said.

The money will come from the city’s Fiscal Stability Reserve – often called the rainy day fund – so that administration can start preparing for the new responsibilities now. Waiting to find the money during the November budget process would not give them that time.

Changes also include the creation of a new escalating fine for those who repeatedly fail to clear their sidewalk in the 24 hour time period. The fine amounts are to be determined.