Winnipeg metropolis council approves extra machines for snowy sidewalks, places personal contracting choices on maintain

Civic leaders are trying to make the upcoming winter less painful for Winnipeggers navigating the city’s roads, sidewalks and active transportation routes.

City council voted Thursday to buy 15 new sidewalk-clearing machines for about $3.7 million.

According to a report to the city’s public works committee, none of the sidewalks or pathways in Winnipeg were cleared to the city’s own timeline standards this past winter due to relentless weather and equipment limits.

As part of a review for the entire snow and ice clearing policy, city staff suggest speeding up the time it takes to clear sidewalks and paths, plowing them at the same time they plow the nearby roads, and plowing sidewalks down to the concrete, not just to a compact surface.

To do that, they suggest the 15 extra machines, as well as contracting out more of the work to the private sector.

City staff also want to contract out an extra 506 kilometres of sidewalks and pathways to private contractors on a permanent basis. They already contract out about half of that.

Moving all of that space to private responsibility, plus those extra 15 machines, could speed up the clearing timelines by about 50 per cent — from five days to 2½, according to the report.

Some councillors were uncomfortable with the idea of giving so much work to private companies for fear of upsetting unionized city workers.

“Perhaps the next thing we’ll have is a grievance from CUPE [Canadian Union of Public Employees] saying, ‘Why weren’t we considered for this service? We do a better job,'” said Coun. Matt Allard (St. Boniface).

City staff say there’s no need to consult with the union since they already contract out some of the work.

“We didn’t approach the union or asked for approval to contract out as we don’t consider this as a new contracting out initiative,” streets maintenance manager Michael Cantor wrote in an email to a councillor.

“We already contract out these services, we’re just communicating that we are expanding it.”

Council voted 11-5 to buy the 15 machines and send the idea of hiring more contractors back for more discussion. City staff must now consult with union leaders and talk options. City staff will report back at the Sept. 22 council meeting — the last before the civic election on Oct. 26.

Rough ruts in the streets, sidewalks, anger Winnipeggers

Paul Phangureh’s students — ranging from teenagers to the elderly, brand new drivers to new immigrants getting a Canadian licence — are all hesitant to get behind the wheel with the road conditions and high snow banks.

Council members who wanted to approve the contract work worry that’s too long of a wait.

“The delay has the potential to cost taxpayers more money because contractors only have a limited amount of snow-clearing machines, said Coun. Janice Lukes (Waverley West).

“Everyone’s out there looking for jobs. If we don’t send out public works now to secure those machines, we’re not going to have improved snow and ice clearing on our pathways this winter.”

Money is tight when it comes to snow clearing at the city. Winnipeg spent more than $50 million so far this year clearing the snow — about $15 million more than budgeted.

Other items approved Thursday

City council also approved the building contract and a budget increase of $6 million for the North End Winnipeg police station. Now that there’s a developer attached, construction could start later this year.

Any bidder who wants a future contract with the City of Winnipeg will have to show it cares about the greater good — council unanimously approved a new social procurement plan. As part of a bid, companies will get extra points in the tender process if they show they give back to the community in some way.

Council also approved an extensive plan to get the City of Winnipeg to net zero emissions by 2050. The plan will be used as guidance for big projects like the Winnipeg Transit Master Plan.

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