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Woolwich to maintain snow-clearing levels

When Woolwich looks to cut spending in next year’s budget, a decrease in snow-clearing levels won’t be on the table.

Following a lively debate and a split vote Tuesday night, councillors opted for the status quo, fearing a reduction in service levels might make winter driving more risky.

The discussion followed a presentation by manager of engineering Richard Sigurdson outlining possible areas for cuts. His report came in response to council’s call for all departments to find savings of five per cent across the board in preparation for setting the 2012 budget.

Sigurdson recommended no changes to plowing and sanding of rural roads, but said it would be possible to do less clearing on secondary roads in the urban settlements, where levels of service exceed the minimum standards set by the province.

He also suggested holding a public meeting prior to making any changes.

Councillors, however, had mixed feelings about both reductions and the process.

Coun. Mark Bauman, who originally raised the snow-clearing issue when cuts were first discussed, said he believes the service could be scaled back with no impact on safety. He cited the example of his own street in St. Jacobs, where the street was cleared four times over the course of 24 hours during a snowfall of about six inches last winter.
Noting that he travels throughout the region all winter, he said Woolwich roads are the best plowed in the area, “but I’m wondering if that’s where we want to be.”

He was backed by Coun. Allan Poffenroth, but the three others on council were unswayed, ultimately deciding to stay the course.

Mayor Todd Cowan, for instance, said cost savings should be found elsewhere rather than taking a chance with safety on the roads.

“Saving money is good, but not when it’s at the risk to the public.”

Added Coun. Bonnie Bryant: “We could be facing lawsuits if something happens.”

A 2-2 tie in voting was broken in favour of the status quo by Coun. Julie-Anne Herteis, who chaired this week’s committee-of-the-whole meeting.

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