Archive for Monday, December 1, 2008

Harsh winter, harsh penalties

City considers increasing fine for those who skip shoveling snow

It may soon become expensive to forget about shoveling your snow from your sidewalk.

December 1, 2008


As the snow falls, your financial risk may rise.

City commissioners Tuesday night will consider new regulations that would begin fining people $50 for failing to clear their sidewalks of snow. The new regulations would eliminate the automatic warning the city has given lax shovelers.

“We need to create a culture where people understand that shoveling is something that is expected of them,” said City Commissioner Boog Highberger. “Unfortunately, creating consequences for not doing their civic duty may be the way we have to go.”

Here’s how the new ordinance would work: People would be given 48-hours to clear their sidewalks following the end of a snow or ice storm. If they haven’t cleared their sidewalks in that time, their property could be visited by a city inspector. A few days later, the property owner would be sent a citation instructing them to pay a $50 fine to the city, or contest the charges in Municipal Court.

The new ordinance would be a significant departure from the city’s current policy.

Today, residents are expected to have their sidewalk cleared within 24 hours of a snow storm. But the city also automatically gives everybody a warning of sorts by sending out a letter to people who are in violation. The letter gives the people an additional five days to clean the sidewalk before facing a possible $20 fine.

Several residents, however, have complained that the current city policy is a waste of time. They say the five-day period is too long, and makes it difficult for pedestrians to travel on sidewalks during the winter. Fines are rarely issued by the city because snow and ice often melt before the five-day period elapses.

The proposed ordinance would make it the responsibility of the property owner to clear the sidewalks. It does not address what happens if the property owner is on vacation or away from the property while it snows.

City staff members aren’t necessarily recommending the new policy.

“There may be enforcement challenges with that,” said City Manager David Corliss. “I want to caution the commission that we have hundreds of miles of sidewalks in the city.”

Staff members have presented other options for commissioners to consider.

They include a new ordinance that would reduce the grace period from five days to three days. They’ve also said they could look at creating a list of “priority pedestrian routes” near schools and other areas that draw large number of walkers. Those routes could be designated as the first areas to be inspected by city employees.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.


jhawkfan05 9 years, 5 months ago

Excuse me but I believe those are City Sidewalks. Why are you going to hold the homeowner or who ever it may be liable for cleaning off the city sidewalks. I think that is totally wrong. What are you going to do if it is and elderly couple that live in that home and they are not able to come outside and make sure that that sidewalk is clear i suppose you will make sure they are fined the $50.00 or they better make sure they have some one come over and clean the side walk for them....Again i think this is totally stupid!!! THESE ARE CITY SIDE WALKS SHOULD BE THE CITY CLEANING THEM!!!

Matt Schwartz 9 years, 5 months ago

hey boog, why don't you come shovel my sidewalk? It's brick, it's old, and it's far from being level in any the way, i shovel my walks and my's just the right thing to do.

lisabeth2002 9 years, 5 months ago

Why don't they focus more on clearing off the freakin' roads that are still covered in ice/snow after it freezes over. Maybe once the city gets good at doing that, THEN we'll talk about citizens being required to clear off city sidewalks.

BigPrune 9 years, 5 months ago

Why is this snow shoveling such an issue now? Some powerful progressive minded bundist now finds the time to complain about snow shoveling or the lack thereof? Shouldn't the City be shoveling off our sidewalks now that they are willing to have our tax dollars replace the crappy ones? I wonder what the Mayor's Global Warming Task Force is thinking about all this business?

Fred Whitehead Jr. 9 years, 5 months ago

How about an ordnance that requires the city commissioners to respond to information about misconduct and criminal activity in a city department? How about an ordnance that makes the elected city commissioners responsible to the voters that put them there instead of the city manager trying to dodge the fact he has criminals working for the city? How about an ordnance requiring the city manager to fire department heads that allow this behavior? How about a city government that is responsive to citizen input? How about some jail time for city employees that violate the laws of the land? Oh, not in Lawrence. The city manager and his "staff" run the show and the commissioners have yet to find a spine.

persevering_gal 9 years, 5 months ago

While I do believe that we need to shovel our own sidewalks, yes, even if they are "city" sidewalks in front of our yards, I still think that is proper etiquette. However, imposing a $50 fine for those who don't shovel is somewhat a waste of time as someone has already quoted. I just think about some elderly and disabled who are unable to shovel their sidewalks. There have to be some boundaries to this. Just like the roads, the sidewalks need to be taken care of as well. Once they freeze over, the ice damages the concrete and can cause it to crack - a good example of this would be the numerous pot holes here in Lawrence. With this in mind, I think the roads need to be better taken care of over the sidewalks. As far as the "lazy" people here in Lawrence who think it's too much of a hassle to shovel their portion of the sidewalk, ask yourself how many times will you actually have to shovel snow here in Kansas. That's right, not very often!

Danimal 9 years, 5 months ago

Yeah, shoveling some snow a couple times a year is no big deal. That being said, I'm glad there's no sidewalk in front of my house. Hey frwent, maybe we should have a directly elected mayor like pretty much every other city and town in America? Then we could eliminate or scale back the city manager's office.

headdoctor 9 years, 5 months ago

And do I get to fine the city when and if a snow plow comes by and buries their freshly shoveled sidewalk with more snow than I just shoveled. I stopped shoveling for that reason. I would shovel in the morning and come home at night to a two foot or more pile of frozen ice and snow the full length of their sidewalk.

caseygolf 9 years, 5 months ago

How does someone named "Boog" gets elected to public office? Does he have nothing better to do in his elected position in the face of major economic distress? Is there nothing more pressing on the agenda of the city commission? Embarrassing!

jayhawklawrence 9 years, 5 months ago

I think this type of fine will be extremely unpopular.How about folks with heart conditions who shouldn't be out shoveling walks anyway. Many times in recent years, there is also ice involved and at times you almost need a pick axe to clear it off. What if someone dies trying to clear off their walk and save $50.I don't see a lot of strollers out on the walks when these conditions exist. I agree that some walks need clearing, but most don't so why penalize the entire city.I am disturbed by Boog's choice of language. "We need to create a culture..."Time to review your job description buddy. You are just a city commissioner.

andyies 9 years, 5 months ago

You would think in a time of recession with so many out of work that the city could seize the opportunity to do something proactive not reactive for the public. How many jobs though seasonal, could be produced around the country for work just like this? It wouldn't be much, but it would pay the mortgages of many who are losing their homes in a time of need. Nothing like a city demanding free labor and fining if you refuse. Karl Marx comes to mind!

gr 9 years, 5 months ago

"I wonder what the Mayor's Global Warming Task Force is thinking about all this business?"Hey! Shoveling the sidewalks causes global warming. Keep the snow cover and save the earth!Some people have no sidewalks.Some people have multiple sidewalks.In the BO era, it would be fitting to tax everyone and the city to take care of shoveling sidewalks.

gccs14r 9 years, 5 months ago

The easy way to prevent a City plow from burying your sidewalk is to shovel your half of the street, too. In my case, it's only a 12x60 section of pavement.

inglec 9 years, 5 months ago

I agree with some of the comments on why we should be so worried over the cleaning of neighborhood sidewalks when many of those sidewalks are broken and compiled of rumbling brick construction making them impossible to clean let alone making the elder population of our city shovel snow and ice. If you are going to impose a fine for non removal of snow and ice then why do our city fathers not impose a fine for the over growth of brush impairing the sidewalks that you see in many of the neighborhoods?

classclown 9 years, 5 months ago

Danimal (Anonymous) says…Hey frwent, maybe we should have a directly elected mayor like pretty much every other city and town in America? Then we could eliminate or scale back the city manager's office.==================================But then that wouldn't be quaint.

classclown 9 years, 5 months ago

Wasn't the city just talking about olive branches and extra reminders and no penalties for an unenforceable ordinance a week or two ago?

Becky 9 years, 5 months ago

Do we get to fine the city if they don't clear the streets? If someone comes to inspect my sidewalk my street better be clear.

SMe 9 years, 5 months ago

jhawkfan05 (Anonymous) says…"Excuse me but I believe those are City Sidewalks"Sorry, no. Those are the property owner's sidewalks. They are on the property owner's land (but tied up with a city easement). They are the owner's responsibility to maintain and clear.Of course it could be written into any lease or rental agreement that clearing the sidewalk would be the responsibility of the renter or lessee and I'll wager that's going to, should have before now, start happening.

Tony Kisner 9 years, 5 months ago

I can just imagine the response the first ticket generates. I foresee a flood of emailed photos of other non-complying sidewalks being sent to the City Commissioners.

TheEleventhStephanie 9 years, 5 months ago

Hope The Boog keeps his own sidewalk cleared. I'd like to "create a culture" where every db who doesn't shovel has to pay me $50 when I slip on their property.

deskboy04 9 years, 5 months ago

Don't smoke in a restaurant, build a bypass, or build a power plant. But you must pay for a bus system and shovel your sidewalk.

sarahsmilehawk 9 years, 5 months ago

My mother isn't physically able to shovel sidewalks, nor can she afford a $50 fine. What's she supposed to do?On the other hand, I live in the Oread Neighborhood (I think?) and there are a few houses who clearly spend many hours and lots of money on their homes and yards, but don't have the courtesy to shovel their sidewalks. With all the students and professors walking to class, you'd think they'd feel a little bit obligated.Last year, I usually had to walk in the street because there was so much snow on the sidewalk. It's not the safest way to get to class, but it was usually the dryest.

nunya 9 years, 5 months ago

Why do we pay such high taxes? So city officials can clear/repair/replacement their city owned sidewalks and streets! Why should property owners be punished for sidewalks/ street clearing/repair/replacement, especially since when a repair to the sidewalk needs to be done, the city appoints the property owner associated with the sidewalk with the responsibility We pay taxes for a reason, the city needs to meet its end of the deal!

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