As rain spattered against the windows Tuesday, March 7 night at the Perth Committee of the Whole meeting, council members discussed snow removal. Prompted by Kari Clarke, the Business Improvement Area (BIA) coordinator, the recommendation to maintain the current practice for the removal of snowbanks in the BIA downtown core was debated.
This year, before snow was removed from the sidewalks “it was 18 inches high…which is the equivalent of two stairs high. Customers step over jagged, icy, uneven piles to more jagged, icy, uneven piles. And the snow doesn’t stay pristine white,” she pointed out, adding that the dirt and grime of the snowbanks make the town look unkempt.
With almost a sigh, Mayor John Fenik said every year he gets calls about snow. “Part of me says ‘We’re Canadians. We have to be patient.’”
Looking at what might be a $100,000 cost to cover the request from the BIA, which might mean a two per cent tax increase, he says he’s “not opposed, but I keep hearing ‘Don’t raise taxes.’” Fenik added if taxes are raised the town could cover the expense; otherwise, he said, services would have to be reduced elsewhere.
A little philosophically, he pointed out that the end of winter “is a bad time, people are grumpy” reiterating that while he wouldn’t be opposed to raising taxes “staff is recommending the status quo.” He asked rhetorically if businesses would pony-up to cover the cost and answered his own query, “that’s not going to happen.”
Option two of staff’s report, which was not recommended, says “Since the relationship of snow volume and height are exponential, snow event standards would be estimated to be tripled (nine additional events annually). The estimated per event cost would be approximately $10,800 ($97,560 annually), which has not been budgeted and would require a change to the 2017 budget.”
Councillor Jim Boldt said he would never support a two per cent tax increase but would consider asking staff to tweak costs a bit.
In Councillor Jim Graff’s opinion, “we’re making this more complicated than it has to be. Look at a small independent contractor with a dump truck and a front-end loader. I would like staff to see what that would cost – not near $100,000,” he added.
Boldt said the issue “boils down to trucks and people. We have time to take another look, both logistically and financially. And remember,” he added, “it’s all predicated by the number of snow falls.”
Perth Chief Administrative Officer John deRosenroll said the collective agreement allows the town to contract out work, confirming “We will look at other options.”
Committee of the Whole unanimously passed a motion to defer the recommendation until some other options/modifications/tweaking could be done.