Get those snow shovels out.
City commissioners Tuesday decided to get tougher on people who don’t clear their sidewalks of snow.
Commissioners gave preliminary approval to a new ordinance that will require property owners to remove snow from their sidewalks within 48 hours after the end of a snowfall.
The city’s current ordinance allows up to six days to remove snow because people are automatically given a five-day grace period before they face a $20 fine. The current ordinance has been criticized by some residents who think people don’t shovel their sidewalks and instead wait for Mother Nature to melt the snow.
Commissioners on Tuesday said that wasn’t acceptable.
“We haven’t gotten this done to the extent that we need to for our pedestrian-traveling public,” City Commissioner Sue Hack said.
The new ordinance would eliminate the automatic five-day grace period. Instead, residents will just be expected to know that their sidewalks need to be cleared within 48 hours following a snowfall.
“The snow is your notice,” Commissioner Boog Highberger said.
The new process should make it easier for the city to actually prosecute violators. Under the present code, instances of people being fined for not shoveling sidewalks are extremely rare, staff members said.
Commissioners had considered increasing the fine from $20 to $50, but decided to keep the fine at $20 after they were reminded that each case also would include $61 in court costs for violators.
Staff members also said they would instruct inspectors to be lenient in issuing tickets in cases where city snow plows have covered up sidewalks near city streets.
“I think we’re going to have to rely on our inspectors to use good judgment,” said Jonathan Douglass, assistant to the city manager.
Commissioner Mike Amyx and Mayor Mike Dever both expressed concerns about whether the new regulations would do much to encourage more shoveling, and wondered whether the new rules would hurt the elderly and others who can’t shovel snow on their own.
Commissioners agreed on a 4-1 vote to move forward, with Amyx opposed. The new regulations will start in about three weeks after the final ordinance is approved.