Sturgeon County’s new proposal to charge residents for driveway clearing is leaving at least one resident feeling left in the cold.
The new policy was implemented as part of the 2011 budget and charges rural residents $70 to clear a driveway after a storm. Previously, the county had been doing as many as 400 driveways free of charge.
Chris Thomas, a county resident near Legal, said she is upset the county is charging for a formerly free service.
“It is insulting to pull it away and then turn around and charge us $70 for the service,” she said.
Thomas said she doesn’t believe rural residents receive value for their tax dollars and this will only decrease with a service being pulled away.
Coun. Joe Milligan, who represents Thomas’ area, said he has received calls since the county announced the change in policy, but not all of them have been against.
“I have had for and against. I have had guys who said now that you are out of the business I can get in, and other guys who said you should plow driveways.”
Milligan said the service wasn’t being provided universally to all residents and it was better for the county to simply get out of the business all together.
“You get complaints if the neighbour’s driveway is plowed and you get complaints if mine isn’t, sort of thing.”
Milligan said the $70 fee is meant to cover the cost of the equipment and staff, but more than that, it is meant to encourage residents to seek other options.
“It is a nominal fee really and it is to discourage people from having their driveways plowed,” he said. “It isn’t that we won’t do it, but the $70 fee is barely cost on it.”
Thomas said she has checked around and other counties charge lower rates or nothing at all for clearing a resident’s driveway.
“I think what they are doing with the $70 is robbery.”
The county’s budget documents indicated a wide range in what municipalities charged from nothing at all to $120, with most falling around $30. Some counties also simply did not provide the service.
Thomas said she is concerned that without the county clearing her driveway there could be a danger if a snowstorm came through.
“If the wind blew and we had a big storm the fire trucks wouldn’t get in here.”
She said the few private operators she has talked to so far have indicated, because of the distance involved they would want as much as $400 to clear the entrance to her house.
During budget debates the county estimated the cost of clearing all of the driveways after a major storm currently added up to about $18,000.
They estimated that there would be $25,000 in revenue from the new fee.