It won’t be long before the pleasant fall turns to bitter winter, and the City of Syracuse wants to have a plan in place for their sidewalks before the snow begins to pile up.
City of Syracuse Director of Operations Corey Driscoll Dunham knows there's decades of frustration over the lack of a plan.
"How can one of the snowiest cities in the country not have a plan to address snowy sidewalks? Each year we talk about what a shame it is that we, as a community, don't have a plan in place or we haven't figured it out. Then summer comes and we all forget about it until the snow begins to fly again."
Now, the city might just have a plan. Dunham says the city has identified and will clear 20 miles of busy sidewalks using a private contractor. The request for proposals went out today. She says that although the removal of snow and ice from sidewalks remains property owners’ responsibility, this supplemental service is a much needed first step toward improving public safety. Barry Lentz of the Alliance of Communities Transforming Syracuse agrees.
"Looking at the paths to schools, especially paths that are traveled by young children in pre-k, 'K' and elementary school is absolutely critical."
But the challenge might be finding available contractors this late in the season. Owner of Pro Scapes Property Maintenance Rick Kier is happy that the city has a plan, but questions if the job can even be done.
"When I hear the talk about putting up bids for sidewalk work, even though I have the equipment, the knowledge, the certifications and the training to do this work, I don't know that I would be interested in bidding on it just because of the manpower issue."
Kier says almost all of his company is booked for the winter already, so hiring workers would be necessary, but he says finding people to do the job is a challenge itself because so few want to do it. Kier notes the grueling hours and labor as factors, but thinks a job fair led by the City would be a great idea.
If approved by the Common Council, the hired contractor would begin December 1st. The City would fund the job through the current Department of Public Works budget.