A note or visit by police officers was supposed to be a “friendly reminder” to about 50 City of Whitehall homeowners and businesses that they need to clear the city sidewalk in front of their property, but not all of the residents considered it friendly.
City Manager Scott Huebler Tuesday night told the Whitehall City Council that officers from the city police went door to door recently to remind homeowners and businesses that a city ordinance requires those living on five named city streets that they have to keep the sidewalk cleared of snow.
For those home owners not at home, officers left a written notice at their door.
Police Chief Roger Squiers also said it was a “friendly” reminder. “The (written) reminder said ‘Notice,” not ‘Warning’,” he added after the city council meeting. Squiers estimated about 50 property owners were contacted personally or by written notice.
Council member Orville Smith said he heard from homeowners concerned about the notice.
Smith lives on one of five city streets named in the city ordinance which give homeowners the primary responsibility of clearing the city sidewalk in front of their house. In addition to Alice Streets, the ordinance includes Colby Street, Division Street, Mears Avenue and Livingston Street.
Those streets include the main business areas in the city and sidewalks which provide access to the elementary and middle schools in the city.
A more normal amount of snowfall this winter after a couple of “light” winters has had an impact on the need for the ordinance enforcement.
“We were getting a lot of complaints from walkers and neighbors that the sidewalks haven’t been cleared,” Huebler told the council during the meeting’s comment period.
Huebler said the city used to plow the sidewalks as a “low priority”
service, but in the last couple of years it hasn’t funded the service. He added that the property owners were still had the primary responsibility of clearing the sidewalk.
Huebler told the council he asked the Department of Public Works Director Brian Armstrong to estimate the cost of clearing the sidewalks by the city.
“He said it would cost $5,000 every time to go through the city and clear the sidewalks.”
The city manager said he would consider whether to add the sidewalk clearing service back into next year’s budget.
Council member James Bartholomew asked how the city handles residents on those streets who are away for the winter.
Huebler said the ordinance doesn’t address that. “Being out of town does not excuse them from clearing.”
“Well, I think if we will hold them accountable, they should know well in advance so they can make arrangements before they leave for the winter,” Bartholomew responded.
Huebler said he and Squiers will review the ordinance.