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January 29, 2013 - 3:59pm

No will on council to enforce snow shoveling ordinance

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia.

City Council President Tim Buckley doesn't think the city should levy fines against residents who don't remove snow from the sidewalks in front of their homes, and that's pretty much how the discussion ended Monday night.

"I don't want to be fingering residents for not shoveling sidewalks because we don't know what the situation is a lot of the time," Buckley said.

As council members discussed, the residents could be elderly, away on vacation or sick.

The discussion about snow removal was placed on the agenda because the issue had been raised at a prior council meeting and City Manager Jason Molino provided council members with a copy of the municipal code.

The code states that each resident is responsible for snow removal within a reasonable amount of time following a snowstorm. Failure to remove snow could result in a fine, under the language of the law.

The city has not typically enforced the law, Molino said, because it would need to be enforced uniformly and sometimes there are circumstances that prevent a resident from removing snow.

He said it's a "tricky" law to enforce.

Earlier in the meeting, during the trash discussion, Batavia resident Kyle Couchman mentioned a comment he said he'd read on The Batavian about a council member's response to someone who complained about a neighbor's plow driver piling snow on his sidewalk. The council member reportedly told the constituent to contact the neighbor.

Couchman said he found the suggestion arrogant. It should be up to the city to enforce its laws, Couchman said, not residents.

Kris Doeringer said that he figures he was the "arrogant" council member.

The point he said he was trying to make to the resident was to try contacting a neighbor first to resolve a conflict rather than getting the government involved.

"I would just like to see issues resolved in an amiable manner without the city involved and fining people," Doeringer said.

Only Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian came out strongly in favor of cracking down on people who don't shovel their walks.

"If people weren't so damn lazy and get off their seats and doing things like start shoveling snow, we might have a better community," Christian said.

Loretta Gamin
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Apparently Ms. Christian is physically able to clear off her sidewalks unlike some who are unable to due to health reasons. Financial reasons, as well make it difficult to pay someone to keep them clean. Not everyone is as "damm lazy" as she believes.

Kyle Couchman
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I am still of the opinion that the council member that said that is arrogant. There is an an exsisting ordinance, and it needs to be enforced. I agree with Rosemary, theres always an excuse because there are homes with no one with financial reasons, or health issues that dont shovel or snowblow. In some cases they are landlords that dont give a damn as well.

The ordinance is in the books, the city has code enforcement officers that have a job, code enforcement. You get a ticket for it or even get your sidewalks cleared by the city? The use the opportunity to go to court and show the VALID reason why. In the case of people who have no separation from the road or get plowed in by the city then the city should eat that cost and clear it themselves. Everything I heard sounded like enabling to me. Under which the city can show favoritism to those who get them into office

(That referenced the excuse heard last night that maybe it's someone who isnt here when the snow falls. Seems to me if you have the health and finances to travel then you are able to make arrangements for a 2.5 ft path made on the sidewalks of your property)

Brenda Gill
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The city has not typically enforced the law, Molino said, because it would need to be enforced uniformly and sometimes there are circumstances that prevent a resident from removing snow.
He said it a "tricky" law to enforce.

I am here by declaring that I will be having "circumstances" that prevent me from maintaining my front lawn along with the hell strip here in the city of Batavia this coming Spring/Summer.
I fell on an unshoveled city sidewalk and broke my leg.

Tricky ... yeah I agree it is tricky, because the problem with THAT argument is a homeowner could use it to explain not maintaining their home in general like not mowing their lawn. Can't bring your trash can in from the curb because of "circumstances". No problem there's an unwritten "tricky clause".
If you really feel that this law is unenforceable as written do you have plans to amend ?

Mr. Molino, if you personally know of someone who can not shovel there sidewalk because of "real circumstances" ( physically unable) please contact me. I will shovel there walk. Just like many fellow Batavians do for their deserving neighbors every Winter.

Howard B. Owens
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Kyle, I'll tell you a little story. In 2006, I was walking Pachuco, who was less than eight months old, in a park in Rochester, when a pit bull attacked him and bit his chest. The pit bull, contrary to law, was off leash.

I could have called police, but didn't. The owner of the pit was as upset as I was and only because of his literally prying his dog's jaws open did it prevent this situation from being worse. The owner gave me all of his information and I took Pachuco to the vet. The vet bill was $86.

Within a week, I received a check from the pit owner reimbursing me. I called him to thank him and started to tell him that I was glad we were able to resolve things without involving the authorities, but ... and he cut me off. He had voluntarily put his dog down, which he said had been growing more aggressive.

So, which side do you think I'm on -- the one that says two people can resolve a situation without involving authorities or the one that says involve the government in every picky detail of our lives?

If you can't work out with your neighbor a conflict over snow removal, perhaps you're not a very good neighbor.

Brenda, I thought the same thing about unmowed lawns during the council meeting last night ... people don't trip over long grass, but they do slip on ice ... lots of concern about the elderly being able to shovel their walks ... what about the elderly who might need to walk on a sidewalk in winter?

I think there's a bit of truth in both Rosemary's POV and Kris's ... snow removal is all of our responsibility. We either find a way to get it done as a community, or we're not much of a community.

Kyle Couchman
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Thats a good thing for you Howard I'm glad Pachuco was alright. However there is one key point here. Both of you were community minded. The reality is that there is some in this city that aren't mindful of the community. During our last snowstorm I couldnt sleep so at 3:30 am I shoveled my walk as well as my neighbors on either side as well as those who live in my building (3 family house). My issue is there are those who not only dont do this, but in trying to be to be civil they get more belligerent. This includes businesses, as one of the businesses I complained about, told me in a less polite way, to go pound salt. There is an ordinance, there is a reason its there. Before going to the city council I also called the Director of Public Works, as well as sent an email as to the issue which was that the business that told me to go pound salt had placed a 6ft high pile of snow that was at least 10 ft in diameter this was done after the city went through with their sidewalk plow as well, so I'm assuming since the size of the pile was so large they probably used a loader or skid steer not shovels. Nothing was done and remnants of the pile were still there when I went to the meeting last night. The other company next to the one in question thanked me for letting him know and his walkway was shoveled the next day.

I guess being reasonable is out of the question, I contacted the city and got tole it would be taken care of. I guess since it wasnt the city expects me as a citizen to be annaly retentive and follow the letter of the code. Which addresses this situation.

(B) The City shall not be liable, and no action shall be maintained against it for damages, for injuries to person or property sustained in consequence of the existence of snow or ice, or both, upon any sidewalk, crosswalk, street, highway, roadway, bridge, culvert, public park, or public place unless written notice thereof, specifying the particular place and location of the snow or ice, or both, complained of, has been served upon the City Clerk and unless there was a failure or neglect by the City to cause such snow or ice, or both, to be removed or the place to be otherwise made reasonably safe, within a reasonable time after the service of such notice.

So calling the city clerk wont work I guess I will have to make a written complaint and have it notorized.

Interestingly enough RoseMary's first response to me while they were on their way to executive session was, 1) why didnt I call her? and 2)I should sue.

I wish it was as a community we could resolve the problem, my first thought on leaving was asking if it would be possible to establish a system that people who cant clear sidewalks because of these reasonable types of situations could call. I myself would be willing to go clear a sidewalk with a snowblower as I'm sure others more civic minded in this city would. My only problem is I dont have the snowblower or a vehicle to get to more than my neighborhood. This impresses me as a city wide issue.

Brenda Gill
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lots of concern about the elderly being able to shovel their walks ... what about the elderly who might need to walk on a sidewalk in winter? ... We either find a way to get it done as a community, or we're not much of a community.

You don't have to be elderly to fear falling on an icy sidewalk.
While I realize that there are legitimate instances were homeowners aren't able to shovel, as someone who takes the shoe leather express daily I also witness very able body residents coming & going from a majority of city homes. It's very disheartening to me because I feel like they just don't give a damn about their neighbors.

Peter O'Brien
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When the city starts to maintain their sidewalks, then and only then will I expect residents to. Too many of the sidewalks in this city are uneven and dangerous.

Raymond Richardson
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Howard, yours would be the exception to how many owners of breeds of dogs known for their aggressiveness act towards a situation such as yours.

But I am glad to hear the outcome was favorable for you.

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