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Syracuse still searching for contractor to plow 20 miles of sidewalk

Ellen Abbott
WRVO News (file photo)

A new snow removal program in the city of Syracuse is getting off to a slow start. It’s taking longer than expected to find contractors who will plow sidewalks on some especially busy streets, with negotiations continuing with contractors who might take on the job.

It’s an old story in snowy Syracuse. Sidewalks in certain areas don’t get cleared, forcing pedestrians to make the dangerous choice of walking on the street. That is what prompted the city’s new sidewalk snow removal program. The city wants to use private contractors to clear more than 20 miles of sidewalks in high pedestrian areas.

The city wanted a pilot program in place by December. The problem is the first request for proposals to find someone to do the job went unanswered.

"Not a big surprise in a situation where you are introducing a brand new program, no precedent for anybody having done it any more. And an initiative that’s complicated.  It involves quick turn response to weather conditions over pretty varied terrain for 20 miles of the city,” said Greg Loh, Director of Initiatives for the city.

Homeowners will still be required to clear sidewalks. The new plan covers major thoroughfares like James Street and South Salina Streets after three inches of snow falls.  And even when the city finds someone, Loh expects a learning curve.

"We’re going to see bumps in the process," he said. "Just as we’ve seen bumps now in the beginning, we’ll see bumps in the next stage. We’ll respond to them and we’ll keep moving forward.”

Negotiations continue with contractors. If the city wants to have the program in place by January 1, a contractor will have to be chosen and approved by the Common Council before its last meeting of the year, which is this afternoon.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.