City resets snow and ice control policy following snow removal lawsuit
The squeaky wheel has been greased.
The city has stepped up its snow and ice control policy in response to an ongoing court case in which a woman sued the city, alleging negligence in downtown snow removal.
Using the findings of the Supreme Court of Canada and the recommendations of the Municipal Insurance Authority (MIA), City of Nelson Public Works and Utilities drafted and city council adopted a broad policy to ensure municipal immunity in the way she removes snow.
It is by establishing immunity that the cornerstone is formed in how a local government is able to function without incurring multiple lawsuits.
However, in an ongoing lawsuit against the city by Taryn Joy Marchi in 2015, the claim was made that the city was negligent and had not done enough to clear swaths of snow from downtown streets – after a heavy snowfall in January 2015 – resulting in injuries to Marchi.
The trial upheld the city’s argument – that it was a fundamental political decision and was therefore immune from prosecution – but an appeals court ruling failed to do so, all like the Supreme Court. Both courts concluded that the city can be held liable for injuries caused by its snow removal decisions and that its snow removal practices are not immune to claims for negligence and liability.
Even if the case will be heard again at first instance, said Gabriel Bouvet-Boisclair, Deputy City Manager, the City had to remedy the immunity aspect of its snow removal policy.
“So what we are doing here with this policy is to give us a better chance of establishing basic political immunity in the future,” he told city council at a meeting on the 17th. December.
City manager Kevin Cormack said how local governments have been able to establish a liability waiver is if it was a political decision by council and not made by city staff.
âThe courts have recognized that as elected officials you have to make decisions about how much resources you are going to devote to various (areas),â he said. These decisions are for the greater good, but may not be viewed that way by others.
In order to establish Nelson’s immunity, city council had to take a greater role in directing snow removal policy, said city director of public works and utilities Colin Innes.
“The main thing for establishing a basic political decision is the level and responsibility of elected decision makers,” he said at the meeting. “The more politics has been run by the council … it allows us to defer to a fundamental political decision.”
As a result, the one-page policy was updated to eight pages and provided greater clarification – and details – on how the city goes about moving and managing snow and ice, a added Innes.
“The more a decision is based on technical standards or general standards of reasonableness, the less likely it is to be a fundamental political decision,” he said. âThe more a decision weighs competing interests and requires value judgments, the more likely it will be seen as a fundamental political decision. ”
The intention of the snow and ice control policy was to ensure that city council had a clear and comprehensive policy to guide its staff in dealing with snow and ice, and that this was fine. documented.
In addition, a snow and ice control plan was created to serve to educate people on the subject, as well as to identify some of the constraints and problems associated with snow and ice control.
The burden among us
Outside of politics, Mayor John Dooley said common sense and geography had to be considered.
He said the Nelsonites live in a mountain town with a very snowy winter.
âThere is a certain responsibility that falls on the public to be able to move around town,â after a snowfall, he said.
“When you are driving through our town on the bus line or the emergency route – the hospital or the fire station or any of our facilities – within half a block of most people , you can go on a well-cleared road. ”
These routes, including transit routes, are cleared first as a city priority during and after a snowfall event. Not all roads will be cleared of snow right away, he said.
âIt’s not rocket scienceâ¦ and it has to be up to the public to stay home or take the proper route to get to where you want to go,â Dooley said.
MIABC recommendations on snow removal
– Have a well-written written policy that sets out a plan of how you will deliver your services within your allocated budget;
– local governments are not expected to deliver their services to perfection; and
– a clear written policy will help establish that the way a service is provided is reasonable in the circumstances and meets the standard of care.
Source: Town of Nelson Public Works
Tale of the Band
The town of Nelson maintains over 67 kilometers of roads for winter conditions.
Budget, equipment and manpower constraints make it impossible to clear snow and ice from all of the city’s roads in a single day, a report from Innes to council noted.
âThe policy identifies the priorities for snow removal and the order in which areas will be served after a snowfall,â he wrote.
âWinter weather can be very unpredictable and the city’s ability to meet the goals set out in the plan can be affected by equipment failures, labor shortages and budget cuts. ”
The snow and ice control plan – developed in conjunction with the policy – is considered a best-case response assuming all equipment is in good working order and all personnel are available to work.