Mayor Mike Seferian said the city is reluctant to issue citations to property owners for not shoveling their sidewalks following a heavy snowfall because some are unable to keep up with city plows covering them back up again.
Councilman James Seaman at a council meeting on Monday said he had received complaints from some residents about blocked sidewalks after the most recent snow storm.
“A few citizens were complaining to me about sidewalks - basically why don’t we get on them,” said Seaman, though he said it is difficult for some property owners along busy roads to keep their walks cleared after the plows push the white stuff back onto the walks several times per day.
“There were some low temperatures when the snow needed to be shoveled. That’s pretty hard on even fairly fit people of a younger age,” said Seaman. “But I was wondering, on the main roads, in some cases, when the snow plow goes through, it will put snow back onto the sidewalk. It’s not something we really can control. The first priority is the road. I understand that. But I guess, if a person were diligent, and they lived in a certain area, and they shoveled their sidewalk, they could end up having to shovel it extra times because of the plowing. I don’t know how we address that or how we put it in perspective. I don’t know if there’s an easy answer.”
“You’re correct in one regard,” Seferian said to Seaman. “It is a difficult situation and there’s no perfect answer for it.”
The city is flexible when deciding whether or not to cite property owners for not shoveling their sidewalks following snow storms, said Seferian.
“What we traditionally do is we grant latitude to those people. Of course the streets have to be plowed. It is not only the top priority, it is the priority,” he said.
Sometimes, when crews are plowing the roads, they will help property owners open up their driveways if they are plowed in, he added.
“If they are out there, they will help to open them. So we do our best,” he said.
The city also has to clear its own sidewalks, he added.
“The crews do a good job. But that is a second priority. We certainly are not going to be ticketing someone who has not shoveled their sidewalks when we may have not even done our own yet. We do it at our first opportunity. We even made some arrangements to get some other equipment for next year to help in that respect. It’s unfortunate when the sidewalk is close to the street. But other than that, it’s the price of having your sidewalk on a busy street. It’s just the way it is,” he said.
When newer sidewalks were installed along parts of Navarre Avenue, Public Service Director Paul Roman had them located further from the road so plows would not cover them with snow.
“In the newer sections of Navarre, we made sure the sidewalks are further back,” said Roman. “But unfortunately when the state route was widened, there are sections where the sidewalk is right up against the curb. ODOT put in a six foot wide sidewalk knowing you’re going to end up with snow on it. I know it’s tough to have it in our code and saying it’s the responsibility of the property owner. But sometimes I wonder if we should ever consider a four foot path in those situations that would create enough room so any pedestrian can get through. That’s one way to look at. But the road is the top priority.”
Some businesses with sidewalks close to the road also get a break, said Seferian.
“They also have parking lots close to the road, too. Traditionally, in the past, when they have cleared their parking lot, it can be used as the actual sidewalk, and we have allowed that because the parking lot, being close to where the sidewalk would be, serves the same purpose,” he said.