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Newton Aldermen Agree to Extend Trial Snow Shoveling Ordinance

The trial ordinance, which was passed in March 2011, was initially supposed to last two years.

Hoping to gather more data and increase awareness among residents, the Newton Board of Aldermen Tuesday night voted in favor of . 

The current trial, which started on Nov. 1, 2011, was scheduled to end on Nov. 1, 2013. 

Approved by the Board of Aldermen in March 2011, the trial snow shoveling ordinance requires property owners to remove snow and ice from sidewalks abutting their property within 30 hours of a storm. 

During the trial, the city does not fine property owners for not shoveling, but may issue notices of non-compliance. 

The aldermen agreed that prior to the ordinance's November 2013 "sunset" date, the board would vote whether to continue the requirement and implement fines for not shoveling.

But due to last winter's lack of snowfall, the city was not able to gather any "useful data" on whether residents complied with the shoveling requirement, according to minutes from a Jan. 9 joint meeting between the Public Safety and Public Facilities committees. 

Dept. of Public Works Commissioner Dave Turocy explained to the committees that the city saw only 12.5 inches of snowfall last winter and the largest storm dropped just 4 inches of snow, the meeting minutes said.

Following the most recent (Dec. 29, 2012) storm, which dropped 7 inches of snow, the city received 34 complaints related to snow clearing, the meeting minutes said. Four complaints were related to illegal snow dumping by a plow and four were about sidewalks that were not cleared by the city. The remaining complaints involved residents or businesses who did not clear the sidewalks in front of their property. 

In addition to gathering more data on compliance, aldermen argued that another year is needed to spread the word about the requirement before the aldermen consider putting in place a fine for non-compliance.

After the last storm, DPW workers went around to knock on the doors of those businesses and homes that did not comply. If the business owner or resident was not in, a door hanger was left with information about the trial ordinance, according to the meeting minutes. The door hanger is included in the photo section above.

The city has also set up resources for those who cannot shovel, including exemption forms and lists of local residents willing to shovel for a fee. 

Vice President Cheryl Lappin was the only alderman opposed to extending the ordinance, as she did not support the original trial ordinance. According to meeting minutes, Lappin believes the city should put effort toward a snow shoveling campaign before creating an ordinance that could have fines in the future. 

Lappin also stressed that the city should shovel the sidewalks it is responsible for before requiring residents to shovel, the meeting mintues said. 

Both the Public Facilities and Public Safety committees approved the snow shoveling ordinance on Jan. 9, which moved it to a full board vote on Tuesday night, Jan. 22. The full board voted 20-1-3 with Vice President Lappin opposed and three aldermen absent (Lisle Baker, Jay Ciccone and Carleton Merrill). 

What do you think about extending the trial ordinance? Will it make a difference? Has it helped at all? Tell us in the comments section below. 

A Touch of Health Therapeutic Massage January 23, 2013 at 08:11 PM
It seems pretty unfair that people can be fined for not shoveling, when the city plows many sidewalks, thus giving free shoveling to all of those people. Also, I believe that people with homes with dirt sidewalks, rather than concrete, do not have to shovel in front of their homes. Now, why is that? Why do people not get to have an off-street path on those streets? And my pet peeve ... for those living on main streets, after shoveling the plows come by, possibly several times in bad storms, and, instead of turning the blades out a little, just fill up the driveway cuts with wet, heavy snow and also sometimes pushing the snow back into the shoveled sidewalks. I keep wondering when someone will sue the city, because of a shoveling-induced heart attack.

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