Future of windrow clearing in Aurora to be decided by July: Council

Aurora residents hoping to apply for windrow snow removal for the winter ahead will find out in July whether it will be a go for another season.

At the last Council meeting, lawmakers received further information on the results of the Town’s recent Windrow Pilot Program, which was approved by lawmakers in 2023.

Since the start of the spring, the future of the program has been up for debate, with some Councillors and residents alike questioning both its cost and efficacy, given the few snow removal days Aurora faced in the winter of 2023-24.

At the beginning of April, Council asked staff for further information, including potential alternatives on service delivery. This information came forward last week from Luigi Colangelo, Aurora’s Manager of Public Works, outlining how staff hires brought on to implement both the program and deliver on parks programs fared.

The report, as directed, also touched upon public feedback received during the pilot project.

“Staff considered methods of collecting feedback with a participant satisfaction survey, but most applicants did not include an email address for a digital follow-up,” said Colangelo in his report. “Additionally, phone call questionnaires while contemplated are a costly exercise in terms of administrative use of staff time.”

Data provided by the Town’s Communications Department, however, shed a light on their own outreach, how many people saw their content, and online clicks and comments.

“The following note was received from Town Communications staff in summary of the windrow program received feedback: ‘Winter weather typically brings an onslaught of negative comments on the Town’s social media posts, but the comments on our windrow posts were overwhelmingly positive. It is also rare for residents to give kudos to the Town on social media, but the comments on our windrow posts did just that,’” Colangelo reported.

“As noted in the last report, of the 1,100 participants, on average we received ten complaints per event. This represents less than one per cent of participants suggesting they were unhappy with the service deliver. Of the less than one per cent, many comments inquired about service delivery time, forwarded to operations staff prior to the service being completed. On average, service delivery took 4.5 hours to complete utilizing six seasonal staff and three additional full-time staff, with the exception of the significant snow event which was completed in under seven hours despite the service standard becoming null and void.”

With this new information, staff continue to recommend continuing with the pilot for the upcoming winter to “better gauge” the financial impact of a more conventional winter snow season. They have also left the door open to a user-pay model, such as one implemented in Burlington of $100 per resident dwelling, but Colangelo notes the cost to deliver the program in Aurora per address was in the neighbourhood of $227.

During Council discussion, Ward 1 Councillor Ron Weese said many of his outstanding questions were answered in the further report but said he was “not convinced” enough work had been done “to be able to discriminate between what we have done in the past and what we would like to do in the future in order to make this pilot something that we can do full time.”

“I believe we want to do this for our seniors and those people who are disabled in the community,” he said. “I would really like some effort put into alternatives and ways to reduce the cost but keep the service available to those people. “The other thing that has come to my attention a number of times is that the eligibility criteria may have been subverted in a number of ways because we hear of 65-year-olds who have an able-bodied person living with them and so I think that the notion of fairness and equity to our seniors and to those people who are disabled need to be resolved a little bit better than it has before. I don’t know if it can be perfectly done, and I know we have done a lot of work in trying to make the eligibility right, but I think that is another thing we ought to consider besides looking at alternate methods of delivery.”

Similar to Councillor Weese, Ward 3 Councillor Wendy Gaertner said the eligibility needed to be “tightened up.”

“We did get an email from a resident and one of the things she was talking about was one neighbour signed up – I imagine they were townhouses or rowhouses signed up for the windrow program and we ended up clearing both driveways,” she said. “There are things that need to be tightened up, so I like the referral back to Town staff.”

Council unanimously voted for send the matter back to staff to address outstanding concerns for a further report in July.

Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran

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