PLATTSBURGH — Every winter, City of Plattsburgh officials receive complaints about sidewalks left covered in snow and ice, but this year, the phones are lighting up more than ever.
“Oh, yes, we’ve had quite a few complaints this year,” Mayor James Calnon confirmed.
Resident Andrew Golt is one of those complainants. He appeared at the last Common Council meeting to tell Calnon and city councilors that many sidewalks in the city are not passable, and some are dangerous to walk on.
Golt, who owns several properties in the city, said he and his wife dutifully clear the sidewalks in front of their properties. But, he said, many other landlords are irresponsible and make no effort to clear paths.
“It’s unconscionable,” he said.
He suggested the city invest in a snow-removal machine designed specifically for sidewalks and take care of the job itself, instead of relying on property owners.
There is a city ordinance that calls for property owners to clear the sidewalks in front of their properties within 24 hours of a major snowstorm.
If that doesn’t happen and there are complaints, the city will do the work and bill the owners.
Calnon said this winter has proven more difficult than usual because of the combination of ice and snowstorms.
Heavy, thick ice has hardened like concrete on many sidewalks, making it impossible to remove without heavy equipment.
City Public Works crews have been out pounding away at the hardened ice on the streets, but it has been slow going.
“The ice, the snow, the ice and then the snow again has put us way behind,” Calnon said.
The ordinance does say that if the ice is too difficult to remove, the property owners should salt or sand the sidewalks.
Calnon said that finding salt in stores was difficult after a major ice storm hit around the holidays and sales skyrocketed.
“We tried to be forgiving, and the warm weather we’ve had recently has helped a lot,” he said.
TRIPLE THE COMPLAINTS
City Building Inspector Joe McMahon said his office had received 42 sidewalk complaints since Jan. 1, about three times as many as usual.
The property owners are notified, and often they will take care of the problem.
But those who don’t are turned in to Public Works, which then goes about clearing the covered sidewalks.
“If we send it to Public Works, and they are busy and can’t get to it for a day or two, then sometimes when they get there, the sidewalks have been cleared,” McMahon said.
The cost for having the city clear the sidewalks is a minimum of $175 for sidewalks 75 feet long or shorter. Anything longer than 75 feet is an additional $1.20 per foot.
The fee covers labor, equipment and administrative time for the city.
“It would be a lot cheaper for someone to pay somebody to shovel the sidewalk than have the city do it,” Calnon noted.
CLEARED 8 SO FAR
Superintendent of Public Works Mike Brodi said the city has cleared eight sidewalks so far this winter and billed the owners, which is about twice as many as usual.
“This has been an exceptionally difficult winter,” he said.
In addition to keeping city roads and properties clear, Brodi and his staff also have to clear out around the 527 fire hydrants in the city.
“It can be hard to get to the sidewalk because we have a lot to do, but if there are complaints we go and clear them,” he said.
As far as the city purchasing a snow-removal machine for sidewalks, Calnon said that is not likely to happen.
“We have about 70 miles of roads in the city, and if there are sidewalks on each one, then you are talking about 140 miles of sidewalks potentially,” he said.
“I’m not sure we can afford the volume of equipment and staff to do the job in a timely manner.”
WALKING ON ROUTE 3
Golt also complained that there is no place for pedestrians to walk on Route 3, which is called Upper Cornelia Street in the city’s West End. He said snow plowed from commercial parking lots has created massive snowbanks, blocking walking paths and making visibility for motorists difficult.
McMahon said the property hugging Upper Cornelia Street belongs to the property owners, not the city.
“There is not much we can do about that,” he said.
“It would be up the property owners if they want to put sidewalks in.”
Calnon said Golt’s complaint is legitimate.
“We have to continue to look at that and see if there are ways we can solve the problem,” the mayor said.
Email Joe LoTemplio:firstname.lastname@example.org