Snow Removal Ordinance Enforcement Defined
By Steve Novotney
It’s been on the books for some time.
543.01 REMOVAL OF SNOW FROM SIDEWALKS.
“The owner or occupant, or any person having the care of any building or lot of land bordering on any street or square within the City, where there is a sidewalk graded, or graded and paved, shall, within a reasonable time following any snowfall, cause the same to be removed therefrom. The provisions of this section shall apply to the falling of snow or ice from any building.” (Ord. 1835. Passed 10-30-51.)
If the National Weather Service forecast actually proves true, it’s supposed to rain and snow today, and then the mercury is expected to dip down tonight to 14 degrees Fahrenheit.
Just how much “winter nastiness” we will see has not yet been mentioned by meteorologists. If it is proves to be an accumulating precipitation, an old problem in Wheeling will once again rear its dangerous head – untreated sidewalks
This dilemma places in danger more than a thousand seniors in the downtown, Center, and North Wheeling sections, as well as everyone else on foot trekking through the Friendly City.
It is inevitable that it will occur at some point, if not today, and the treacherous conditions will be present for a few different reasons:
- According to U.S. Census data, the median age of a Wheeling resident in 2010 was 45.2 years, and that means we are top-heavy with an older population. As a result, many residents are not physically able to clear their walks as mandated by Wheeling’s Codified Ordinance;
- The city of Wheeling owns more than 200 parcels, several of which were abandoned properties with sidewalks no longer maintained in inclement conditions;
- Some property owners just don’t care;
- And there has been little enforcement over the past few years.
All areas of Wheeling are impacted, but in the downtown district the sidewalks often look like a checkerboard with some treated and others not. When the city purchased and demolished seven buildings within the 1100 block, the taxpayers assumed the responsibility for a large portion of the walks along Main and Market streets, but far too many others are privately owned.
This not only places those who descend on the downtown for employment in danger, but it also the hundreds of senior citizens who reside in one of the three high-rise apartment buildings in the district.
Should Wheeling council members craft an amended ordinance to increase enforcement? If so, how should the property owners be held accountable?
By police officers? No.
Building and fire code inspectors? No.
The enforcement of Wheeling’s snow removal ordinance should come from the city’s Code Enforcement Officer, a position recently held by Dave Palmer, a former member of the Friendly City’s police and fire departments before retiring as a firefighter. This employee is charged with maintaining vacant properties throughout the city, as well as researching parcel ownership and registering those owners so they are legally liable for Wheeling’s vacant structure fees.
In 2013 alone, the city collected more than $30,000 from these property owners, the most since the program was implemented in 2009, and fee collection began in 2010.
This employee is tasked with a thankless job, and seldom do these landowners willfully cooperate. Adding this responsibility during the winter months would add to the level of difficulty, but it would also accomplish two important goals:
- Identifying senior citizens who need assistance;
- And increasing the overall safety within the Friendly City.
If Wheeling leaders do not believe this is a viable solution, then they should closely examine this slippery problem and develop a better, safer solution.
If they refuse, Wheeling’s six council members and Mayor Andy McKenzie will be guilty of “kicking the can” down these snow-covered sidewalks.