Kimberley’s Chief Administrative Officer, Scott Sommerville has been working on a Sidewalk Replacement Policy following some confusion around the rationale for removal and replacement of sidewalks in Kimberley.
At a regular City Council Meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 14, Council voted on adopting the first draft of the new policy. The motion was carried on a vote six to one, with Councillor Albert Hoglund voting against.
“[Before] we had an unofficial, unwritten policy and have budgeted for years to remove sidewalks in town,” explained Sommerville. “With some recent concerns about what the decision making process is around replacing [and removing] sidewalks, we felt it’s best to have a written policy on it. The policy outlines the transparent decision making process on whether sidewalks will be replaced or not, how we rationalize based on traffic volume, alternate routes, safe routes for kids to go to school and use of the trail system.
“The policy also outlines and establishes the framework for local service areas. If residents want a sidewalk, and in the policy they aren’t entitled to it, we could do some sort of cost sharing agreement with the residents to put in sidewalks that are deemed extra.”
Mayor Don McCormick says the policy is not the decision making vehicle, but rather the guideline for staff to make decisions from.
“Staff will be looking at that infrastructure on a case by case basis, as not all geography around town is equal, and there are reasons why we need to replace certain sidewalks that [might] have a higher flow of traffic,” said McCormick.
Councillor Darryl Oakley asked how the City will educate the community on a case by case basis. He says there can, potentially, be a lot of factors going into said decisions.
The first step is to put it in writing and then introduce the policy and decision making process at public meetings, says Sommerville.
Continued on A3
He also says the City will be putting together maps that show the plan for the next five years or so.
“As per the capital plan, each year as we identify a project, not just sidewalks but any project that impacts a specific neighbourhood, we need to do a better job at communicating that and getting the word out,” said Sommerville. “For example, Norton Avenue. We knew back in November last year that one of those sidewalks was going to be deleted. Word didn’t get out until the machinery showed up on site. That’s just not good enough. It’s part of the capital planning process; having those town hall meetings, writing letters, and notifying residents very early in the process.”
In terms of local service areas, the policy outlines that the City may share a percentage of the cost for sidewalk improvements. Councillor Sandra Roberts asked how that percentage will be determined.
Sommerville replied saying that Council will decide how much the City would need to contribute and wether or not the sidewalk contributes to the greater good of the community, or if it is specific to one neighbourhood.
“Again, I think that’s something to be decided on a case by case basis, [and] only if the neighbourhood petitions us to put a sidewalk back in. I didn’t want to tie Council down to a formula because every sidewalk has a bit of a different situation,” Sommerville said. “I wanted to run this policy by Council first and work the kinks out of it before we move on to an actual policy. If this policy is adopted I will bring [forward] the actual policy next, which will include some language on curbs as well.”
Hoglund asked about local service area and the potential of applying for sidewalk repairs through that status.
“If the area’s already a local service area, but the sidewalks are no longer in good condition, they shall be removed [says the policy]. Then residents have to come back and go under the establishment of the local service area and try to get a new sidewalk put in when maybe only a third of it had to be fixed up,” Hoglund said.
Sommerville says the purpose is to say that if you sign up [for local service area status], or you’ve contributed in the past, that there is a timeline.
“You’re not guaranteed for the rest of eternity to have a sidewalk,” said Sommerville.
Corporate Officer, Maryse Leroux explained that the possibility of a cost share only comes with the local service area.
“Local service area is basically the vehicle that finance will use. It’s almost like a tax, but it’s a tax that’s only on the cost of the infrastructure,” said Leroux.
Somerville says he recommends against a local service area for sidewalk repairs.
“There’s a lot of administrative work to go along with that, including a petition,” said Sommerville. “There’s a lot of work that goes into establishing a local area service. We’re repairing sidewalks all of the time, we just don’t really have the funding to keep them all maintained to the level they should be. That’s part of the reason we started removing sidewalks. Repair of sidewalks will continue. The ones we remove are typically the ones that are in a state of repair and they’re not used that frequently. If they don’t meet the policy’s criteria, then we decide to remove them.
“The language around the perpetuity of sidewalks is very intentional. When you buy a sidewalk, the City will tell you the expected life of it and once it reaches that point it’s not guaranteed [that] it’s going to be replaced 30 years from now. When I look back 30, 40, 50 years ago, at how the sidewalks were put in, there was a timeline on how the payments would be stretched out, but there was no language around what happens decades from now. This is trying to set a stage for 2060 when someone’s sitting in these chairs and faced with these decisions.”