By Connor Hansen
The Lansing Star
LANSING — The Lansing City Council has set Nov 10 to be the date for a public hearing for an ordinance that would change the policy on snow removal from residents’ sidewalks.
“What we have before us now is a resolution that instead of a notice being given when an infraction was committed, what would happen is there would be a general notice telling everybody at the beginning of the snow season that this is a city requirement. If you don’t do it then the city will come in and clean it and then you will be billed,” Carol Wood, at large member of the Lansing City Council, said at the Oct. 27 meeting.
Residents will be given 24 hours to clear the snow and ice after the snowfall before the city can clear it and automatically bill them.
The current ordinance, in effect last winter, requires the city to send a letter in the mail notifying residents of the snow or ice on their property, and then eventually send contractors to clear it and charge them. Wood said that since mail now has to go through Grand Rapids instead of Lansing, notices can take much longer to reach property owners.
Wood said a potential problem with the ordinance is that the public would be notified of their responsibilities only through advertising in one news publication.
“Unless I’m reading every public notice, it’s one of those things that can often be missed,” Wood said. “The administration has indicated that they’ll try a number of things such as putting it on our webpage, putting in in the Board of Water and Light bill and a number of different avenues, but the ordinance only requires notification in a public newspaper so it always depends on who happens to be responsible at what time and if they’re following the letter of the law.”
For Lansing resident Ryan Best, simply putting the notice in a public newspaper will not be enough.
“My grandma might read it, because she also lives in Lansing and she might tell me, but that’s the only way I hear about things written in the local newspaper,” said Best, who lives on S. Magnolia Street in Lansing and attends Michigan State University.
Wood expressed concern about the city even being able to meet this 24 hour deadline for clearing its own sidewalks.
“The City has a number of sidewalks that they are responsible for that are around parks, public buildings and things like that and often our sidewalks are not cleared within 24 hours after a snow event,” Wood said. “I personally would expect that if I’m telling somebody else to do something, I better be doing it myself and I better be doing it in a timely matter, so I as a council member would want to make sure that before anybody is sent out to clean anybody’s walks, that ours are done first.”
Best saw evidence of this last winter. “There was a city building on my street that just never got shoveled, the sidewalk would never be cleared off, the sidewalk would just have like two feet of snow and it would just never get cleared off, because nobody lived there and you would have to walk in the street,” he said.
With this new ordinance, there will be a steep price to pay for neglecting the shovel your sidewalk.
“The City is only allowed to charge what it costs to actually do the job, but again those costs can be for an average sidewalk can be over $100,” Wood said. This price will be based on the amount out sidewalk in front of a property. Best said that, last Winter, he almost never cleaned up his sidewalk, he was never sent a notice, he was never billed and the city never sent anyone to clear it.
To Best this might be the motivation it takes to make residents more religious about shoveling.
“I think as long as you make the public aware, a $100 fine isn’t that bad, because if the fine is what most people would call fair then it would almost promote them to just let the city do it for them,” he said.