Friday, August 28, 2015

Snowy Sidewalks and Sisyphus

Spotted inside the Middle School auditorium.  Budget cuts = no storage shed?  In the winter is this sweeper replaced with a snow blower?

© 2015 Luke T. Bush

PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY – Thursday, 8/27/15

Neg vibes in the Middle School auditorium this evening.

But not from the members of the Snow Removal Advisory Committee.  SRAC was formed back in January to address the chronic problem of unshoveled sidewalks every winter in Plattsburgh City.

But, you may ask, why is that a problem?  Doesn’t The City take care of all public property from parks to streets to that parking lot for seagulls down by the lake where the hotel-convention complex wasn’t built?

Not when it comes to wintry sidewalks.  For decades Plattsburgh City has evaded responsibility for keeping the concrete stretches clear.  The burden is on the property owners who are required to clear any sidewalk adjacent to their properties 24 hours after a snowstorm ends.

And if they don’t shovel?  You the citizen have to file a complaint with the Building Inspector’s Office, preferably noting the location right down to the building’s street number.

How well does this work?  It doesn’t.  Too many sidewalk stretches remain blocked by snow.

City Mayor Jim Calnon (sitting) raises some issues with the SRAC report.

Like pterodactyls returning to Capistrano the same debate rages every winter on how to fix the problem.

Blocked sidewalks are a bigger obstacle for the disabled community.  Imagine what it’s like for someone with a cane, walker, or wheelchair.  Should a wheelchair user be forced to attach a snow blower to their conveyance?  (Scratch that comment.  Cheapskates would think that it would be a viable option, helping to keep taxes down.)

Enter the SRAC.  This evening each member stands at the lectern to explain details of the committee’s report.  Unfortunately there’s a lotta empty auditorium seats.  About half of those in attendance are committee members or city officials.

Everyone is generally on the same level, sitting in the audience area, empty stage in the background.  SRAC members are nested in one spot off to the side, two short rows of folding chairs.  In the center the mayor and city councilors sit at folding tables that combine into one impressive conference table.  Citizen participation is encouraged during Q&A after the report’s findings are explained.

Nutshell: two proposals/solutions to the problem.   Short term: Revise the current code so it’s more fair and enforceable.   Then The City promotes awareness of the code changes via multi-media from November through February.  Long term: The City takes over the operation with the needed equipment and three seasonal employees. 

Acknowledging that such a switchover takes time the short term solution should be implemented during the upcoming 2015 – 2016 winter season.  Target date for The City taking on all sidewalk snow and ice removal: winter 2016-2017.

City Councilor/SRAC member Rachelle Armstrong stresses positive aspects of the SRAC report.

SRAC member Jeff Moore says that when he was mayor of Champlain the village was responsible for mechanized snow removal. It worked well.  Same situation for Rouses Point.  That village has been providing snow removal for 30 years.

But during the Q&A discussion some neg vibes are in the air.  Plattsburgh City Mayor Jim Calnon challenges how well a municipal snow removal service would work.  What about cost?  Taxes?  Councilor Becky Kasper wonders about liability if the city took over.

The SRAC section answers such concerns.  SRAC member/City Councilor Rachelle Armstrong says the estimated fee per taxable parcel would only be about $12 a year to fund the proposed program.  Jeff Moore says that lawsuits will always happen but Champlain and Rouses Point didn’t have any major problems.  Positive responses.

Rachelle says the long term proposal isn’t perfect, there is room for debate.   But everyone should work on why it can be done instead of concentrating on why it can’t.

A teacher in the audience, Mary Ward, shares an anecdote about a field trip to a nearby grocery store she tried to have with pre-K students one winter.  It was in walk-able distance but on two occasions she and her students had to turn around due to snow–blocked sidewalks.

She agrees that the SRAC proposal should be considered with a more positive, not negative, attitude.  The city, she continues, should take on the snow removal burden so that children don’t end up walking in the street with traffic.

During the forum Councilor Mike Kelly observed the snow removal debate had been going on for decades. 

Winter approaches.  The years roll on.  Up and down the hill.

1 comment:

Tal Hartsfeld said...

Officials/those-in-charge seem only interested in controlling things, not in serving others.
They're more interested in doing things TO others rather than in doing things FOR others.