The system for clearing snow from sidewalks should be similar to that used for waste collection, according to Tallinn Deputy Mayor Vladimir Svet (Center). In his view, municipalities should be allowed to organize snow removal, as doing so would not only be cheaper, but also to a higher standard and more environmentally friendly.
Currently, property owners are responsible for clearing snow from the sidewalk in the area between their property and the carriageway. While Isamaa has proposed exempting owners from this obligation and instead putting it on the city, Svet says doing so would cost €27-30 million a year.
"We are talking about taxpayers' money. I too would have no objection to finding that additional €27-30 million. But neither Isamaa, nor anyone else, has been able to say where it will come from. Taxes are already a burden on the Estonian people, and it makes no sense to introduce an additional snow tax, even though the Finns, for example, have one in Helsinki, in the form of a property tax. I think it would be simpler to allow local authorities to organize snow removal, as it would be cheaper, of a higher standard and more environmentally friendly," Svet told ETV show "Terevisioon" on Monday.
The deputy mayor would explain that while four years ago it cost the city around €20 million to clear the snow from sidewalks, last year it rose to €27 million and is expected to be even more expensive in the coming winter.
"In order to solve the problem, one small move needs to be made by the Riigikogu – to give the city the possibility to organize centralized or settlement-based snow clearance [system], where the approach would be the same as with garbage. One central company would be found for an area and all the cooperatives and the city would sign contracts with it."
According to Svet, this kind of system would allow for better quality and more environmentally friendly snow removal from sidewalks.
"The problem at the moment is that when everyone is doing their own maintenance, and a tractor is called out, it drives around the city with its plow in the air, just to clear the 50 meters. And, that uses fuel. What is also important, is that it is cheaper. If one person orders a whole street [to be cleared], it's always a better service than if everyone orders a section of street [separately] ."
To make a system like this work, Svet says, just one sentence needs to be added to the current law. However, according to the deputy mayor, the Tallinn city administration has repeatedly proposed such a move to state representatives, though so far without success.
Editor: Michael Cole