The City of Kitchener embraces technology for safer sidewalks

By Sherief Ibrahim, GM, Business Applications, Microsoft Canada

As winter approaches and the first snowfall hits the ground, municipalities across Canada are put to work on winter maintenance. This means not only clearing snow and ice from city-owned facilities, roads, and pathways but also enforcing winter bylaws that ensure property owners clear their own sidewalks (within 24 hours of a snowfall) to ensure safety and accessibility for all residents. For the City of Kitchener, with a population of nearly 250,000 people, the latter proved to be an onerous task.

Bylaw officers for the City found the process for issuing snow removal notices to property owners time-consuming – it was a manual process that required multiple steps and officers to write handwritten notices. This was far from ideal as the City aims to provide helpful and detailed notices to educate citizens on snow and ice removal. With winter approaching last year, the City of Kitchener embraced the change needed to smooth out the process and found a solution using Microsoft Power Platform.

“We used Power Platform to rapidly build out apps, automation and reports better to manage the work related to our winter bylaws,” said Jon Amsden, manager, business solutions, City of Kitchener.  “This means that all staff now have access to real-time requests for sidewalk maintenance and the process for issuing notices is now automated, resulting in more clear sidewalks across our City.”

For the bylaw officers, this new technology has decreased the overall inspection process time from several hours to as little as 20 minutes in some cases, resulting in a rapid increase in the number of inspections completed per day. It also made coordination with the back-office seamless, with images available instantly for all staff and supervisors to see no matter where they are. For property owners, notices are now generated in an app in real-time and detail helpful information including information about the bylaw, and how to contact the City if help is needed clearing the area.

With results like this, it’s easy to see why City staff embraced the change. They noted that the development process was speedy and intuitive, allowing staff to be engaged in the process to test and incorporate feedback in real time. When it comes to future use cases, Amsden noted there is opportunity in other areas, such as property maintenance and other municipal requirements, like pet licensing.

“With the Power Platform, there are “no cliffs,” meaning you can go full speed ahead with development – whether it’s low-code or code, you can really do anything,” said Amsden. “Also worth noting is the integration with all of Microsoft 365 from an ease-of-use standpoint and when it comes to security – it’s all so easy to administer for our IT team.”

It’s great to see digital transformation come to life with such tangible results. This winter, life should be a little easier (and safer!) for the staff and citizens of the City of Kitchener.

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