Cities keeping sidewalks clear

DeKalb has issued more than 100 warnings in snowy winter

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014 5:30 a.m.CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014 9:04 a.m.CDT

DeKalb officials have issued more than 100 warning notices to residents for failing to clear snow off their sidewalks during a winter that has seen about 35 inches of snow so far.

Countywide, local laws vary on when property owners need to remove snow and ice from sidewalks. DeKalb allows 48 hours after two inches of snow, while Sycamore’s ordinance doesn’t specify time or snowfall and Genoa has no policy regarding sidewalk snow removal.

In DeKalb, city staff checks sidewalks in commercial areas, near private health care facilities and along designated routes children use to get to school. Other areas of town are inspected only if the city receives a complaint, according to Public Works Director T.J. Moore.

None of the warnings from the city have escalated to someone being fined for not clearing snow from the sidewalks, Moore said.

“For the most part, if you issue a warning, you get 100 percent compliance,” Moore said. “In some areas of the community, you might need reminders, but right now its pretty good, even with the winter we’ve had.”

At the DeKalb City Council meeting Monday, alderman discussed stiffer penalties for failing to clear walks, but took no action. Fifth Ward Alderman Ron Naylor suggested placing a lien against the property for the city’s cost to remove snow if the property owner failed to clear the sidewalk three times. His suggestion failed to garner support from fellow aldermen.

Sixth Ward Alderman Dave Baker said although he has concerns about routes to school being clear, he didn’t think the city should increase its enforcement efforts if it required more staff or penalties.

Moore added that many people who don’t clear the sidewalks have a legitimate reason, such as being elderly.

The city of Sycamore casts a much smaller net than DeKalb. Only businesses in Sycamore’s downtown commercial district have to abide by a snow removal ordinance, Community Service Officer Steve Watts said.
The city rarely needs to issue even a warning, he said. Sycamore hasn’t had to warn anyone about removing snow this year.

“They want the sidewalks cleared because they want the foot traffic to their business,” Watts said. “We’ve never really had anyone [thumb] their nose at a warning, because what purpose would that serve them?”

The city of Genoa doesn’t have a snow removal law on the books, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t clearing their sidewalks, Police Chief Ty Lynch said.

“We’re not really dealing with it, and no one’s brought it up,” Lynch said. “A lot of people do keep their sidewalks cleared, especially near schools. It’s really not a problem.”

In some cases where sidewalks near school crossings and crossing guards are not cleared, the city will send a public works employee to clear the sidewalk, but Lynch said no one is billed for the work.

Snow rules

Penalties for failing to clear a snow-covered sidewalk in three local towns:

Fines:

DeKalb - $35

Sycamore - $100 first offense, $200 for each subsequent offense

Genoa - No fine

Length of time to clear sidewalk:

DeKalb - 48 hours

Sycamore - No time frame by ordinance.

Genoa - No ordinance

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