Decision on sidewalk removal deferred by council

St. John Street sidewalk

Township council may follow through on a recommendation to remove more than three kilometres of sidewalks but not before the Brock Accessibility Advisory Committee has had a chance to provide input.

At Monday’s (March 12) meeting, the public works committee opted to defer approval of a staff recommendation on the removal of more than 3,000 metres of sidewalks that are not currently maintained by the municipality due to poor condition and being a substandard width.

“Works staff currently do not provide winter maintenance for most sidewalks that are less than 1.2 metres wide. The sidewalks that are currently plowed are marked on the above draft sidewalk plans,” the report from Works Director Nick Colucci reads.

“Staff have determined that a high priority should be placed on the removal of any sidewalks that are not currently being maintained in the winter due to sub-standard width or poor condition.”

The report recommends spending nearly $129,000 this year to remove sections of sidewalk, with just $30,000 being spent on repairs to the east side of Adelaide Street East in Cannington and the east side of Albert Street South in Sunderland.

“The removal of these poor sidewalks would greatly reduce the trip and fall liability to the municipality,” the report reads.

If it’s ultimately approved by council, most of the work would come in Cannington where sidewalks on six streets – Ann (south), King, Munro (east and west), Prince, Queen and St. John — have been identified for removal.

The proposal also calls for portions of sidewalks to be removed along Church Street and Mill Street in Beaverton and Albert Street North in Sunderland.

Prior to debate from council, Ward 4 Councillor Therese Miller brought forward a motion to defer the decision until the accessibility advisory had a chance to offer feedback.

“I understand trip and fall liability…I am concerned about ripping out these sidewalks,” she said, asking if staff had any statistics on claims.

“The short answer would be yes…most of our claims relate to trip-and-falls,” responded CAO/Clerk Thom Gettinby.

“It’s a significant liability issue. I don’t think that’s uncommon for municipalities.”

Colucci said that seeking out input from the accessibility advisory committee was a “good idea” and added that the potential removal of sidewalks would not occur until the summer.

Mayor John Grant told his council colleagues that he made an effort to drive around Cannington to take a look at the sidewalks identified for removal.

“Some of these sidewalks are 100 years old,” he said.

Mayor Grant challenged future councils to make sidewalk maintenance more of a priority come budget time.

“For decades, our sidewalks have not been maintained as they should have,” he said.

The report notes that the Township has spent more than $250,000 on sidewalks through this term of council, with nearly $159,000 budgeted this year.

“At least we’re dealing with it. And the way we’re going about it just makes so much sense,” Mayor Grant added.

Staff noted that there is a possibility that the sidewalks slated for removal could be reinstalled in the future.

Colucci told councillors that replacing the sidewalks slated for removal would cost $700,000 rather than the $129,000 cited in the report.

The report was filed as an update to the municipality’s sidewalk master plan and outlines roughly $1.9 million worth of repairs to municipal sidewalks in the coming years.

“If I were writing a headline, it would be ‘Brock replaces eight kilometres of sidewalks,’ not ‘Brock removes three kilometres of sidewalks’,” Mayor Grant said.
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