Who needs a membership to the gym when you’ve got enough snow to shovel yourself into the best fitness of your life. This is biceps building season and by the time we finish shoveling I figure we can send a Kent contingent to the world’s strongest man (or woman) competition. Now I know why the Swedes do so well — they shovel year round. If the weather has hurt the gym business I’m guessing it’s kept a steady stream of customers lined up at the physical therapists — aching backs, sprained muscles and frozen extremeties. Northeast Ohio is what therapists call job security.
And I’m not just talking driveways here — for all those that have lifted a shovel in the name of civic duty and shoveled the sidewalk in your neighborhood we salute you. Like the edges of my shovel, the whole snow-novelty holiday-season-nostalgia-thing is long since worn off and we’re left with the grunts and groans it takes to not only push the snow to the sides but lift it 4 to 6 feet high to reach the summit of Mount Snowbank. There’s not much joy in snowville these days — so focus on the cardio benefits and how buff you’ll be at the end of the season — just in time for the beach!
If fitness alone won’t motivate you the City is looking do a little coaching and incentivizing shoveling. The City ordinances already said that everyone needs to pitch in, do their part, and shovel the sidewalks that are adjacent to their property but Council felt that the ordinances needed to go a little farther and they added that anyone that piles snow from their driveway or parking lot in a way that blocks the sidewalk then they must clear the sidewalk or be subject to a citation that carries a financial penalty like a ticket. With the amount of snow that has been piled on the sidewalk it looks like the City’s Code Enforcement Officer is ready to implement that citation process. Here’s the details from the Community Development Department and a couple of other updates for how all this will work:
FROM GARY LOCKE, COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR: Just to give a quick idea how this will work, Troy Loomis will be the primary staff person involved with the enforcement. When a violation of the ordinance occurs, Troy will contact the business owner or property owner (in appropriate cases both will be notified) and provide them with a warning in writing that they are in violation. They will be provided a period of time to correct the violation. I have instructed Troy that if the violation constitutes an immediate safety hazard, that a 24 hour compliance deadline should be allowed. If the situation is not an immediate safety hazard but the owner or operator of the business or property can be contacted directly, then a 3 day compliance deadline should be provided. In the event that the property owner or business operator cannot be contacted directly and notice must be sent by mail, I have asked Troy to provide a seven day compliance deadline, unless the situation constitutes an immediate safety hazard, in which if the appropriate person cannot be contacted or located, we would contract to have the danger eliminated by removal of the snow / pile. The cost to the city of having the snow removed would then be passed along to the property owner or business owner.
In the event that compliance is not achieved through the warning letter by the compliance deadline, a Citation for Civil Infraction will be issued. At this point a fine becomes effective. Anyone who is cited for the infraction is required to respond with an answer within 10 days of the date of the citation. In that answer, they can admit to the violation and pay the fine; admit to the violation and prove that the violation has been corrected (in which case the fine could be reduced by 50%); request a hearing with the hearing officer; or seek any other appeal process afforded. For the snow removal ordinance, there is no other appeal process. If no answer to the citation is provided within the prescribed time period, the fine becomes delinquent and is doubled. If the fine is ultimately not paid and sent for collection, it is then tripled. The current base fine for a citation is $100. As the ordinance says, we will use any method of obtaining collection permitted by law. I am currently researching whether we can seek collection through a collection agency on any fines levied on non-property owners such as businesses who lease. Ultimately, however, I believe the ordinance gives us the ability to collect the fines from the property owners through certification to the property taxes.
Since we are in the beginning stages of this new process, we will be attentive to how the process works and whether we are getting better compliance. It may be necessary to propose some tweaks and changes to City Council at some point in the future, but we need some time to, “test it on the road”. I would also emphasize that we are not using this system to cite persons who fail to clean their walks since the new council ordinance did not take the changes in that direction. If there are any questions concerning this new process, I would welcome the opportunity to address them.
2. On-Line Citizen Complaint Form for Sidewalk Snow Problems – With more enforcement capabilities (see above) we thought it would also be helpful to make it easier for residents to conveniently report problem spots so we’ve added a new Sidewalk Snow Removal button on the Citizen Action Center page of our City web site: Citizen Action Center. When a resident enters the problem/complaint a report is automatically sent to Troy Loomis for follow up.
3. No Parking Ban and Towing – I thought it might be helpful to share a copy of the Police procedures for ticketing and towing during a no parking ban for snow emergencies. Here’s that Policy: