Councillor snowed under with complaints about sloppy sidewalk plowing

A Toronto city councillor says he’s facing a rising number of complaints about damage caused by sloppy sidewalk snow plowing and he’s filed a motion calling on city staff to find out why.

Coun. Paul Ainslie said he’s fielded about 200 calls a year in the past from residents in his Scarborough ward complaining about things like damaged fences, ripped up lawns and plowed in driveway entrances.

“I don’t expect to get zero complaints, but … right now in my office we’re seeing about eight to nine hundred complaints a year,” Ainslie said.

“Usually it drops down, but it seems to be pretty static, steady every year …That’s a concern for me.”

His motion, approved by Scarborough community council Wednesday, calls on staff to find out why the number of complaints has jumped so dramatically in the last couple of winters. He also wants the report to contain solutions.

And answers can’t come soon enough for Terry Smith.

He’s lived on Ladysbridge Drive in Scarborough for 35 years. And although he says plow damage is common, it’s much worse this year.

“Over a number of years now they’ve ripped up my grass, and usually that’s all they’ve done,” he said.

“But this year, they’ve managed to hit my fence —  twice. The second time they dislodged the whole thing and pushed it right up against my vehicle.”

And although the city has promised to fix it all in the spring, Smith says he’s become frustrated with a lack of action in years past.

“They came back and resodded it, but it wasn’t until June, which is pretty late,” he said.

So, now I just reseed it myself every year. Same with my neighbours.

“I’d like to see them use smaller plows, or plows that are shaped like a V, so that the snow is pushed off to both sides, and just covers the edge of the sidewalk,” he said.

“They should take more care in respecting the homeowners’ rights,” he added. “I do try to beautify and try to keep my grass cut so it looks nice, and then they rip it up in the winter.”

As well as damage to property, Ainslie said some people, like Smith, are complaining that their lawns are not being repaired until summer — and in some cases not at all.

Coun. Paul Ainslie, who represents Ward 24, Scarborough-Guildwood, has asked city staff to find out why there’s a spike in complaints about sidewalk snow clearing, and suggest some solutions. Their report is due in June. (Mike Smee/CBC)

“I even get complaints from people saying, ‘It’s July, why isn’t my grass replaced?”‘ he said. “People want the best value for their tax dollars; they expect value.”

He said he expects a jump in complaints in the first couple of years of a sidewalk plowing contract, but those numbers should drop as years pass and contractors adapt to the conditions on the streets they plow.

Complaints peaking at 900

But that hasn’t happened in the last few years, he said.

“If [the complaints are] going up, or staying at the same level — and I don’t think it’s just me, it’s a lot of my colleagues — that’s a big concern for me.”

City staff said in an email to CBC Toronto that residents should call 311 when their property is damaged by city contractors.

“The best way to have property (public or private) repaired is to contact 311 and log a service request. The agent will file the request and Transportation Services staff will be notified and then investigate the extent of the damage,” the email reads.

“Following the staff investigation, 311 requests and results of the staff investigation are gathered and forwarded to the respective contractors who will perform necessary repairs in the spring and sometimes into the summer (depending on the extent of the damage) – when the weather is better suited to performing the repairs,” the statement continues.

“Repairs by contractors are supervised by a City of Toronto staff member to ensure they are complete and up to City of Toronto standards.”


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