Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Clear the walks

Failure of landowners, homeowners or businesses to remove snow and ice from public sidewalks is a misdemeanor in Ketchum punishable by a fine of up to $300 for each occurrence.

If that's not enough, failure to remove snow is also listed as a public nuisance with the city empowered to abate the nuisance, in this case to clear the sidewalks, and to bill the owner for the abatement.

Most of Blaine County's cities have similar ordinances and most do not enforce them. Most require that snow and ice be removed within hours after a snowfall. If ice cannot be removed, ordinances require sand or a similar substance to be placed on the ice to provide traction.

The snow- and ice-clogged evidence of the failure to enforce is everywhere.

This isn't new—it's gone on for years. It's tough for the good people in City Hall to crack down on something that can seem trivial to investors with no direct interest in a town's economic vitality or to cash-strapped businesses and homeowners.

But trivial it is not.

Clogged sidewalks force people to walk in the streets, putting their lives at risk against moving vehicles. They also inhibit commerce because customers cannot safely walk from one business to another.

It's unacceptable that days and weeks after a snowstorm, pedestrians cannot walk safely on many city sidewalks.

If the cities don't want to enforce their own ordinances, they should do the work themselves and bill the property owners.

Conscientious property owners and businesses shouldn't have to pay to clear sidewalks and then pay again with lost revenues or injuries because their neighbors fail to obey the law.

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