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March 11, 2014

City still discussing sidewalk snow removal

PLATTSBURGH — With many more complaints about uncleared sidewalks this winter, City of Plattsburgh councilors are considering some changes to the law.

The city requires property owners to clear sidewalks of snow and ice within 24 hours of a major storm.

If they don’t, the city can clean the sidewalks for them and send them the bill, which can be substantial in some cases.

Enforcement of the law is complaint driven, so the number of sidewalks the city has to clean varies from storm to storm.

Complaints have been up this winter as the area has seen more snow and ice than in recent winters.

The chief complaint about the law is that many elderly or incapacitated people can’t shovel sidewalks, and therefore they should not be punished.

“I think the city is taking a draconian approach to this,” Gary Sargent of Cumberland Avenue said at a recent city work session.

Sargent said he is on a fixed income and has some physical limitations that make clearing the sidewalk difficult. He also said he is concerned that if someone were to fall on his sidewalk, he would be liable.

Resident Fritz Tobrocke said his 86-year-old mother, who lives on Boynton Avenue, also can’t clear her walkway. He suggested the city place piles of sand in various places so residents can at least go fill a bucket and use it for their sidewalk.

Sarah Fussey said she likes to run in the city and often is hampered by slippery or uncleared sidewalks.

“This needs to be taken care of,” she said.

Councilor Becky Kasper (D-Ward 5) suggested volunteer groups in the city and from SUNY Plattsburgh could help those who cannot shovel.

“We want to take an approach that does not alienate people,” she said.

Police Chief Desmond Racicot said many of the violators do not clear their sidewalks because they just don’t feel like it, not because they are elderly.

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