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Contractor exits talks to plow Syracuse sidewalks over too many uncertainties

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Where the sidewalk ends: West Genesee St. is one of the areas that would get snow cleared in the new program.

As central New York starts to see some significant snowfall, the city of Syracuse is no longer moving forward with the private contractor it selected for its sidewalk snow removal program. Negotiations ended with the contractor last month over too many unanswered questions over how the pilot project would work.   

Tim Halstead, one of the owners of B and T Landscaping and Lawn Care, said initially, his company put in a bid to clear snow from two areas, the north and west sides. But he said the city came back and said they wanted them to bid on the entire city; 40 miles of highly used sidewalks.

“It was more than what we were able to do comfortably, safely and efficiently," Halstead said. "There are so many underlying issues, especially with a new program.”

Issues like insurance, who would be liable if there is an accident, the condition of some of the sidewalks and where the snow would go.

"With new programs, there's a lot of bugs that have to be worked out," Halstead said. "We could have worked them out as we went, but I don't feel comfortable doing that. I like to have as much information and as much planning as we can possibly have."  

He said funding was not one of the deciding factors in pulling out of the talks. The Syracuse Common Council approved up to $170,000 for the project.

Halstead said he thinks the project is a great idea but should be put on hold for next year to work out some of the kinks, including hiring more than one contractor.

“40 miles is a lot to do," Halstead said. "Can it be done? Absolutely. But it’s going to take some more thought and preparation I believe.”

Halstead said he would still be willing to renegotiate an agreement next year. Meanwhile, Greg Loh, Syracuse’s director of city initiatives, released a statement saying the city is in conversations with another contractor with the goal of still having the program up and running this winter.

“The city continues to work toward implementation of a sidewalk snow clearance pilot project. Discussions with a potential contractor did not advance to an agreement. The city is in conversations with another provider with the intent of reaching agreement and getting the pilot underway this winter.”

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.