A public hearing on the new snow removal regulations has been conveniently set for Tuesday February 3rd at 7:00pm - a week after #Somerblizz15. The hearing will take place in the Aldermanic Chambers of City Hall.
Submitted by Aldermen at Large Bill White and Dennis Sullivan, legislative item number 198319 has travelled through Committee and is now being executed giving residents the opportunity to support the new regulations or offer suggestions to improve them.
Snow policies were updated by the Curtatone administration in December of 2014 that had residents seeing higher fines and less time to clear City sidewalks after a storm. The policy states, “If snow ceases to fall after sunrise (during daylight hours), property owners must shovel sidewalks by 10 p.m. If snow ceases to fall after sunset (overnight), property owners must shovel sidewalks by 10 a.m.” Fines for failing to comply start off at $50 for a first offense and can result in a lien on property if the City has to use its own resources to clear the snow.
Brightly colored decals will be left on the door of those who are being cited…this is also known as being “Scarlett Lettered.” In a press release, the City stated that it would work with those members of the community who are physically unable to shovel by pairing those residents with Somerville youth through a collaboration with the Office of Commissions, the Health Department and the Council on Aging. Residents would be responsible for paying for the snow to be removed.
The new policies have been received with mixed reviews according to Aldermen. While some look at it as a serious safety issue (with at least one, saying the timeline is not strict enough), most residents see it as impossible given work and school responsibilities.
In a response to one of my Tweets, the City pointed out that the policies allow for extensions in severe weather cases, thus, making the policies a success.
We can all think of numerous scenarios, but they all seem to come down to one question: what happens if I clear my portion of the sidewalk and snow falls back on it (through a plow, mean neighbor, someone cleaning a car off, or snow drift) What if a member of the disAbled and/or senior community is unable to find someone to shovel or cannot afford the fee? The answer lies in when the City plans on enforcing the snow policy. Close to the 10pm/10am time is unfair...as is anything before residents come home from work which can be anywhere from 4:30pm - 7pm (later if T is out of service). On the other hand, highly separated from the 10pm/10am time makes the policy pointless. Where is the common ground? And, while we're at it, who is on first? Is it the chicken or the egg?
Also, with the city plowing as well as it does, some residents were finding it extremely difficult to clear snow...and clear it again...and clear it again. For residents on corners, the enormous piles caused by the curbside plowing prove the most problematic.
Feel free to express your thoughts (or vent your frustrations) in the comment section below. Also, please make it a point to show up to the meeting!