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'No' to snow enforcement



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August 27, 2014 - A public hearing on a show shoveling tax, Monday, ended in a city council vote not to enforce an existing snow removal ordinance.

Councilman Mike Sabol said the issue was addressed years ago when a previous ordinance was passed, and the city needs to enforce existing rules.

Only fellow Councilman David Marsh agreed with Sabol, with the rest if the council voting "no" in the 5-2 vote, citing further discussion needed.

Sabol added it is the city's job to enforce ordinances, not be a landscape company and start shoveling sidewalks. He later made a motion to enforce the existing ordinance.

Resident Charles Inabnit said not enforcing existing rules is part of what is wrong with governments across the country.

"If you are not going to enforce the ordinance, take it off the books. We live in a country governed by laws. Just enforce the existing ordinance," said Inabnit.

He also asked if any criteria is in place to evaluate how often sidewalks should be shoveled, and said people need to take care of their own sidewalks.

The public hearing at Monday's meeting was to let residents express opinions regarding a Special Assessment District (SAD). If created, it would charge each resident $65 for the city to shovel, but not salt, sidewalks after snowfalls. City DPW workers, who currently plow city streets, would clear sidewalks for the community's 244 homes.

Several residents were against paying the tax, and would rather shovel their own sidewalks.

During the public hearing, resident Arlene Stone asked what liability the city would face in the event of a slip and fall.

"Does $65 cover all of the overtime for three DPW if they have to shovel sidewalks two or three times in a day," Stone also asked.

Gary Rodgers disapproves of the fee because it takes control away from the homeowner.

"That's why people can hire contractors," he said.

Rodgers wondered if the DPW could handle the workload, and how many times sidewalks would have to be shoveled during a long snowfall.

Resident Don Freyer said the young and youthful may not value such a bargain, but he does.

"It seems like $65 to have your sidewalks shoveled all winter is a deal," he said.

Freyer estimated that 50 percent of residents in the city are older, and would also value the service.

"Do you know how hard it is to find someone to shovel your sidewalk if you leave town for a vacation? I would value the service," he said.

City Manager Carol Eberhardt said she received frequent complaints about snow not being removed from sidewalks during last year's record breaking snowfall. This year, she wants clear direction from the council regarding the issue.

Eberhardt said the existing snow removal ordinance requires snow be cleared within 24 hours, or the city will do the job and charge a fee. However, the amount of the fee was never set when the ordinance was adopted.

Fines for not clearing sidewalks may be comparable to civil infractions issued when residents do not mow their lawn after they are given 10 days to do so. Fines are $100 for the first offense, and $150 for a second offense, she said.

Eberhardt said city attorney Tom Ryan advised against issuing tickets because of litigation costs associated with taking residents to court. If a ticket is dismissed, no fee is collected, but the city still pays its attorney to go to court.

Staff writer covering Independence Township and Clarkston area.
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