The snow piles up, and the task of clearing it can seem perpetual. But community street departments are doing their part, and are asking residents to reciprocate.
Many Fulton County communities have laws on the books requiring that citizens clear their sidewalks within 24 hours of a snowfall. And spokespersons for some of those larger communities say that most people comply. Those who don’t, however, can face fines.
Wauseon Public Service Director Keith Torbet said it usually takes only one reminder to non-compliant residents to shovel or snow-blow their sidewalks. He said about 90% of city residents realize it’s in their best interests.
“The people know if someone falls they’re liable, whether you’re the homeowner or the tenant,” he said.
However, there have been repeated offenders, and their penalty can be a fine of up to $100. That fine also includes tossing snow from a sidewalk or driveway onto the street. Torbet said plows sometimes block private driveways with snow but that’s a necessary inconvenience. Throwing it back onto the street is prohibited.
“We’re not in the business of collecting fines, but sometimes that’s the only way to get people to follow the rules. Most people comply,” Torbet said. No citations have been issued so far this season.
Snow removal can get complicated when it involves a vacant house or one owned by Florida snowbirds, he said. The latter often hire someone to keep their sidewalks clear while they’re gone, but those people don’t always comply immediately. Torbet said efforts are made to contact them.
A Level One city snow emergency – called after a snowfall of over two inches – means all cars parked on the street must be removed to make way for city snow plows. Those who ignore the law will be penalized.
“You’d be amazed at how much quicker the streets are cleared when cars are off the road,” Torbet said.
The same 24-hour sidewalk clearing rule applies in Swanton. “We’re trying to work with property owners right now,” Village Administrator Rosanna Hoelzle said. “We’ll try to work with them before we issue any citations.”
The fine is not more than $100, but most village residents are compliant, she said. The village shares the difficult task of contacting owners of vacant homes or those caring for snowbirds’ property.
A village parking emergency is declared when snow exceeds three inches. Vehicles must be removed from streets or fines can be issued to the owners.
Swanton Police Chief Adam Berg said the department attempts to advise people when significant snow is forecast and they need to get a jump start on removing vehicles from streets. “We’re going to try to forecast…and try to notify people beforehand that an emergency is forthcoming,” he said.
The majority of residents obey, although after snowfall last week a lot of people had to be reminded; no fines were levied, Berg said. If a vehicle is deemed hazardous in a snowy roadway it will be towed.
Because most are compliant of the sidewalk and street rules police officers normally don’t push residents too hard. “It’s not a priority for us unless it’s deemed an issue,” Berg said. But officers do keep an eye on conditions, he said.
The Village of Archbold is fortunate in that most residents follow winter rules, Administrator Donna Dettling said, adding, “We don’t get a lot of feedback about it.”
Homeowners and renters must clear sidewalks within 48 hours of a snowfall. Police can issue reminders, but those disregarding the village ordinance can be cited.
Winter street parking regulations, which are enforced to April 1, forbid parking on village streets and alleys from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. during snowfall or when street employees are removing snow. Vehicle owners in violation will be fined $25.
“Most people are used to the fact that for us to get everything cleaned up for everyone, there’s going to be a little bit of an inconvenience,” Dettling said.
She said no citations have been issued.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.