Saturday, February 17, 2007

Plattsburgh: Shoveling Snow Or Bull?

Will this be the winter that the city of Plattsburgh finally does something about the problem with unshoveled sidewalks?

As mentioned in a previous post, at least a couple of people have cleared sidewalk sections with snowplows, leaving a large pile blocking any passage at one end. But even without such obstacles, deep snow on an uncleared sidewalk is enough to force pedestrians to take to the street, taking chances with careless drivers.

Back in November 2001 the mayor at that time proclaimed in a newspaper article that property owners had to shovel the sidewalks adjacent to their homes or buildings. For those who didn’t obey the ordinance, the city would send out its public works crew to “scour” the city, find unshoveled sidewalks and then clear them. Then the city would bill the owner for the work. The deadline was 24 hours after a storm ended.

In a recent Press Republican article headlined “City to crack down on sidewalk scofflaws” [2/9/07] the new mayor stated that there were “very serious safety issues” involved with the problem. One resident addressed the city council, saying he had to walk in the street due to a snow-blocked sidewalk and he was almost struck by a car.

The mayor said that a fine schedule for violators would be put into place soon. That’s odd. If you read the article from November 2001, it sounds like the system was ready to go back then to crack down on the scofflaws.

Because of the city budget crisis, the mayor is taking a hard look at expenses. If the city is short on revenue, then clearing the sidewalks and billing or fining the responsible parties shouldn’t add that much more to the red ink. Taking care of the problem this way would be a lot cheaper than settling a lawsuit resulting from a pedestrian who couldn’t use the sidewalk and was injured or killed in the street.

Maybe the new fee schedule is finalized and the city will finally do something after decades of empty promises and threats. Or maybe the city is just shoveling what the people want to hear. After all, it promised to crack down on people who weren’t trimming their hedges next to sidewalks. Hedges grew wild, obstructing sidewalks. I called city hall about this problem and was told that the city was “bluffing,” that it really couldn’t enforce such an ordinance.

Unshoveled sidewalks – just political posturing, more “bluffing?”

Below are photos showing spots that need attention, places where it’s much easier to walk in the street. These were taken more than 48 hours after the storm.

Is everyone at Triumph Auto Glass suffering from bad backs? Or do they feel they don’t have to bother to finish the job and clean up their corner on Margaret and Elm? People tromping through made the pathway, not a shoveler.

In a few places the fire hydrant has been cleared out – an important detail – but snow is piled up on the corner. The option for a pedestrian is to climb or walk in the street. There are a couple of spots like this on Cornelia Street; this one is at the intersection with North Catherine, across from the church. (You can see in the background that the church has cleared its corner, allowing access to the crosswalk. Good job.)

The corner of Elm and Miller. Two snow storms, not one snowflake shoveled. Maybe this will be cleared after more storms create a visual hazard for motorists. After all, motorists, warm and protected in their vehicles, have priority over lowly pedestrians. That’s why all the streets are cleared but some sidewalks are forgotten.

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