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Amherst considers changes to sidewalk plowing

Don’t expect Amherst to overhaul the way it plows town sidewalks by this winter.

The town – which has been weighing a more widespread, comprehensive effort to clear snow from sidewalks along its major roads – may make some tweaks to its sidewalk-clearing program, but will hold off on any sweeping changes that have been under consideration, said Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein.

“It’s too late in the season to change the sidewalk-snowplowing districts or do anything major,” Weinstein said.

“We’ll probably revisit it much earlier next year for the winter of 2016-17,” the supervisor said.

While Amherst has been tinkering with sidewalk snowplowing for the last few years, it’s limited to only two special districts in town. After last year’s brutal winter, however, more homeowners have asked the town to plow their sidewalks, too.

A committee was created to study the issue in more detail and this summer suggested a few options. They include:

• Plowing sidewalks only along the residential areas of so-called “priority” corridors at an estimated cost of more than $374,000. Homeowners who receive the service would pay.

• Plowing sidewalks along the entire stretch of these targeted corridors, which are heavily used by pedestrians and buses, at a cost of more than $757,000. In this case, it would be paid for with a townwide tax.

• Plowing sidewalks along all major corridors at an estimated cost of $1 million. This also would be covered by a townwide tax.

Weinstein included some cushion in next year’s budget in case the town wants to make some adjustments to its Sidewalk Snow Relief Program, but the additional funds wouldn’t be nearly enough to cover any of those scenarios.

In fact, there’s still some question about whether sidewalk snowplowing should continue as a special taxing district – paid for by those who use the service – or get rolled into the highway budget and paid for by all town taxpayers, even though not everyone would get their sidewalks plowed.

There’s also a feeling on the committee that the town should hold off on making any decisions until after this year’s election when voters will elect two new Town Board members and a highway superintendent, who would administer the program, said Daniel Howard, an associate town planner who serves on the committee.

“The consensus is, if we expand this, it needs to be done judiciously and it needs to be done slowly,” Howard said.

email: jrey@buffnews.com