City of Kitchener adding bylaw inspectors to monitor snow on sidewalks this winter

Snow covers a sidewalk on Weber Street in downtown Kitchener, Ont., on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. (Nicole Lampa / CTV Kitchener)

The City of Kitchener will be hiring more staff to monitor snow on sidewalks this winter.

The program, approved at a recent council meeting, will see the city add an additional four bylaw inspectors to the existing four. It is estimated to cost about $163,000.

“That will include everything from wages to equipment to uniforms,” said Gloria MacNeil, director of bylaw enforcement with the City of Kitchener.

The program starts Nov. 15 of this year and runs until April 15, 2022.

Staff said this is what city council asked for during budget discussions.

“This report was really a response to that directive from council,” said MacNeil.

In the 2020 to 2021 winter season, Kitchener staff received more than 1,800 complaints about snow as part of the city's reactive program.

The city hopes the new staff will lead to fewer complaints.

“Just to ensure that we have better coverage throughout the city and that we’ve got safe, accessible sidewalks for everybody,” said MacNeil.

Accessibility advocates said snow on sidewalks can be a challenge.

“It could be dangerous because people have to go on the roadway,” said Edward Faruzel, Executive Director of Kitchener Waterloo AccessAbility.

Faruzel said it is nearly impossible to get through unshovelled sidewalks in a wheelchair.

“They’re not meant for going through four or five inches of snow,” Faruzel said.

But Faruzel said he's still skeptical about the city's new program.

“It might help a little bit but I think a better solution is still just having the sidewalks plowed,” he said.

City staff are planning to target enforcement in areas with high volumes of complaints and non-compliance.

Officials also said it is up to residents to follow the rules and clear their own sidewalks. City staff are only responsible for the sidewalks that are abutting city-owned lands or in areas where there are no private properties.

Those who don’t clear their own sidewalks will be given a bill by the city that amounts to what it costs the city to clear it. City staff estimates that the bill is typically up to $250.