According to Tallinn Deputy Mayor Vladimir Svet (Center), snow clearing in the capital could follow the same principles currently employed for garbage removal. However, according to Svet, if the state also expects the city to cover the cost of maintaining all its sidewalks, it should also provide an additional €25 million a year for it to do so.
"My personal view is, that we could have the same system for street maintenance as we have for garbage collection. (Then) it wouldn't be a case of every cooperative finding its own company (to clear the snow), where the quality and prices are all very different. Instead, the city would find one contractor for each area, with whom all the cooperatives, and the city itself, sign a contract (to take care of) their properties. Then you won't have a situation where a tractor drives around the city with a raised plow, clears (just) one property and then drives straight back," Svet told morning radio show "Vikerhommik" on Monday.
Svet said, that the city has also been considering the possibility of setting up a municipal company in Tallinn.
"This is not being talked about very loudly, but we have already set up a smaller maintenance unit at Kadriorg Park, which will provide us with a realistic picture of what is happening on the market. For example, how difficult it is to hire people. I can assure you, that it is difficult, because we have several tractor driver vacancies in our own maintenance unit. But, when it comes to setting up a large municipal company, I don't think we are ready for that. The idea is, that the market should do the work. But if we see that the market is not doing the job, we have to give it further thought. But I hope we won't get to that extreme," Svet said.
However, the deputy mayor admitted, that when city representatives met with members of the Estonian owners' union (Eesti Omanike Keskliit) and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, there appeared to be no great enthusiasm for taking the same approach to road maintenance as that which is already used for garbage collection.
"What was said, was that it would be easier if the city simply took over the maintenance of the sidewalks. The city could do it if the state was able to tell us where we are going to get (an additional) €25-27 million a year. The logic is simple. The law, which was not written by the city of Tallinn, currently stipulates that the sidewalk between a property and the road is maintained by private owners," said Svet.
"Many cities and municipalities have taken this (principle) into account," he said, adding that the costs are often lower in Estonia's smaller towns and municipalities.
"Talking to colleagues in Tartu last year, their estimate was that it would cost €10 million. Our estimate in Tallinn last year was €17 million, this year it's €25 million. If the state imposes new obligations on local authorities, it has to provide the money or the possibility for them to get the money from somewhere. This is the part that has been missing from all the discussions. If the state is not prepared to pay the money to municipalities at the moment, I understand that, as times are difficult, then let's put the correct regulations in place so that the city can introduce a system like the one used for garbage collection, for street maintenance," Svet said.
According to the deputy mayor, 70,000 cubic meters of snow have been removed from Tallinn so far this winter, which he said is the equivalent in size to ten nine-story buildings.
Svet said, that from December 1, the Tallinn city government had introduced new contracts for the maintenance of secondary streets and main sidewalks, at an increased cost of €12 million compared to last year.
However, the deputy mayor also said, that despite this, there had still been problems clearing the snow from the capital's streets, due to the city's partners lacking sufficient staff and equipment.
"There are more technicians and work crews, but not enough. As for the roads and streets within (individual) districts, their maintenance is organized through the local councils. There is one big difference (here) from the maintenance of main roads - while the use of salt is allowed on main roads, it is not allowed on those between apartment blocks (in these districts). And, if you don't push the snow away fast enough, you end up with big tracks," said Svet.
Editor: Michael Cole