THUNDER BAY – The recent snowfall left the City of Thunder Bay with a lot of work to clear roads and sidewalks. It also left homeowners with a lot of work clearing snow too. In Thunder Bay, we have a population where a lot of homeowners are getting older. Clearing snow, which over recent years has seemed to be larger snowfalls can be a physical and even a financial burden. With climate change, it seems snow storms are dropping greater volumes of snow. The efforts to clear the snow have frustrated many in the city.
The snow deposited after the snow clearing is over, at the end of your driveway, causes a lot of work, and can be very frustrating. Many people on social media raised concern over just having finished shoveling out their driveway only to have the snow clearing crew come by, and have more work to do. Others complained about the speed of clearing sidewalks. The past weeks have seen a lot of work, and a lot of complaining about snow-clearing efforts by the City of Thunder Bay.
In January 2017, the City set in place standards for how snow is cleared. There is a copy of the complete report on the bottom of this report. Those standards if you have a concern could be raised with City Council.
Seeking Solutions for Seniors
The City of Thunder Bay, as well as the Victorian Order of Nurses have programs designed to assist people who are finding it harder to clear their snow.
Social media lit up with posts from a number of people over the size of the snowbank left in front of their driveways by the snow removal crews. Those windrows can be depending on the weather, either very wet and heavy if it is warm, or if it is cold can turn to a solid block of snow in very short order.
So What are the Solutions?
Councillor at Large Frank Pullia states, “Given our aging population, Council has been mindful of the impact of our snow removal operations on driveways especially for seniors. There have been a number of reviews and reports requested to add a side blade to the snowplows and clean all driveways but the extra equipment and manpower required to meet current snow removal standards would run into the millions, so Council has introduced a subsidy of $200 per year for seniors and people with disabilities to help with their end of driveway snow removal”.
What Do You Need to Know?
An increase to the existing tax credit program of $200 per year is the recommended alternative to assist with snow removal costs for low-income seniors and low-income persons with disabilities. The tax credit for eligible residents would increase by $200 annually to assist with costs associated with retaining a snow removal service provider and residents would schedule them accordingly. Eligibility for the program is as follows:
- Must be 65 years of age or older
- Receipt of an increment paid under the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) program
- Total Income less than $37,074
Persons with Disability
- An increment paid under the Ontario Disability Support Program Act, or
- Amount Paid under the Canada Pension Plan and
- Total household income less than $37,074
Residents interested in the Tax Credit Program must meet the criteria above, complete the application by July 31 of each year, must own the property for at least one year, the property must be principal residence and taxes must not be in arrears. In 2016, 388 residents qualified for the Tax Credit Program for Low-Income Seniors and Low-Income Persons with Disabilities and it is forecasted that 400 people will qualify for the program in 2017.
Based on 400 eligible applicants, the annual cost for the city to increase the credit amount is estimated at $80,000.
For information on this program contact City Hall at 625-2255. You can also get more information at the 55 Plus Centre and the West Thunder Seniors Centre.
Victorian Order of Nurses Program
The Red Cross of Thunder Bay offered a cost-sharing program for snow removal services to an eligible senior that has now been taken over by another agency. The program coordinates individuals with a service provider that provides snow removal services to a senior’s home.
To be eligible for the program a senior has to meet the following criteria;
- Must be at least 55 years old
- No able body residing at residence
- Must have the capability to fund approximately 50% of the service
The Red Cross snow removal program is capped at the current level of 234 active clients, due to funding restrictions. There are approximately 200 clients on a waiting list for this service.
Under this program, a senior is estimated to pay between $35 and $45 per snow removal event, depending on the size of the driveway, based on a 50% cost sharing. For snow removal from just a sidewalk or walkway area, the cost to a resident is approximately $18 per snow removal event.
During a typical winter, total costs for snow removal would total $900 with the resident’s share of the cost totalling $450.00 per year (50% share).
This program has been transitioned over to another agency to coordinate service delivery. The Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) will now be coordinating this program starting the winter of 2017.
Based on 400 eligible applicants, costs for the City to 50% subside this service is estimated at$180,000. This community program is less restrictive than existing city credit programs, does not include subsidies for low-income persons with disabilities and does not consider household income in determining eligibility.