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.