A sidewalk that has been cleared but with pockets of residual snow, one to several inches in depth.
The “after sidewalk clearing” photo, from the city’s snow clearing guidelines page at halifax.ca

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Councillors hope to save a program that makes for more comprehensive snow clearing on the Halifax peninsula.

During a budget committee meeting on Friday — the continuation of the rebuilding of the city’s recast COVID-19 budget with $85 million in cuts — councillors voted in favour of a motion from Coun. Tim Outhit to consider putting $225,000 back in the budget for snow clearing done by hand.

Listed as $218,000 for “winter seasonals” under the list of budget cuts for transportation and public works, the 10 employees do “detailed work in the core.”

“This is the detailed work that the machines can’t do terribly well, with respect to curb cuts, access to pedestrian push buttons and work in the new bike lanes,” transportation and public work director Brad Anguish told councillors.

Anguish said the positions were cut as part of the municipal-wide hiring freeze.

“Basically we’d revert back to where we were the year before,” Anguish said.

“These 10 seasonals were added last year to up the quality of our workmanship due to the complaints we had received the season before.”

The season before was the year sidewalks in Halifax were rendered impassable due in part to relentless ice storms, but also poor work by contractors.

That motion passed 14-3. Councillors Bill Karsten and Matt Whitman and Mayor Mike Savage voted no.

This is the second snow removal item councillors have added to their budget “parking lot” — a list of items from which they’ll pick and choose before finalizing the budget.

During Wednesday’s meeting, councillors voted in favour of a motion from Coun. Russell Walker to add $600,000 to the parking lot for the seniors snow removal program. That program is contracted out, usually to the YMCA, and seniors get their walkways and paths to their oil tanks shovelled out.

City reacts to beaches reopening

During council’s budget committee meeting on Friday, the provincial government announced it was relaxing restrictions around COVID-19 — including reopening beaches.

Coun. David Hendsbee was one of the first to break the news (and a provincial government embargo) on Twitter, but chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé let it slip before the provincial government announcement as well.

Parks and recreation director Denise Schofield found out during the meeting, but told councillors there were already some plans in place.

Cuts to her budget include $4 million in staffing reductions, but Schofield told councillors she’d left some room to rehire lifeguards for municipal beaches.

“To be blunt, I’m worried we will have a rash of drownings across the municipality if we’re not prepared for it,” Coun. Sam Austin told Schofield.

The city was also proposing to cut water testing at municipal beaches, along with aquatic weed harvesting, in a bid to save $290,000.

The second item is covered by Coun. Waye Mason’s motion to restore staffing, programs and services proposed to be cut by using some riskier accounting.

Council’s budget committee plans to meet every day next week (except the holiday Monday) to continue hearing from department heads and rebuilding the budget.

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Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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  1. Cheap shot from Mason. Perhaps he is a Liberal and thinks that McNeil and his government are running the most open government in the world. He must have forgotten about his anger regarding the secrecy of the hospital project.
    To date he and some other councillors have been quite happy to cut services that are provided by non-HRM workers. Perhaps he will encourage Andy Fillmore to announce a federal/provincial plan to fund a new nursing home to reduce the risk of death to elderly Haligonians.
    I shovel 300 feet of sidewalk every winter, the length of the block. Then I cross the street and shovel another 300 feet of sidewalk. I do so because on our side of the block the sidewalk is uneven and the sidewalk plow chips pieces of concrete every time it goes along. And then I go shovel the street, OK, I don’t really shovel because I push the snow. The exercise is good for me and the result is better than what the contractor provides. I sweep away all the salt on the sidewalks and then we have clear dry sidewalks free of ice.

    1. Colin, don’t be daft. Two weeks ago the municipality complained we were getting no notice of park opening. This time we got a clearly embargoed heads up, saying in effect “we are sharing this you, it will be announced at the press conference.” If we want to get info before announces we need to respect that. You know that, grow up.

  2. It would not be a good idea to cut snow shovelling. The complaints to City Hall and Councillors would be steady.