City looks at winter care of sidewalks

Patrick Fisher, Staff Writer

Who takes care of this portion of sidewalk? What should be done if it's not shoveled?

Those are just two of the questions the city of New Prague is considering as it looks at the care of sidewalks in the community. The city is specifically looking at the removal of snow from the sidewalks.

The city's ordinance on the maintenance of sidewalks states that the owner and the occupant of any property adjacent to a public sidewalk will remove snow, ice, dirt and rubbish as soon as possible, beginning 12 hours after it has been deposited. If that doesn't happen, the city's street commissioner has the authority to remove the snow and bill the landowner.

While New Prague has an ordinance in place, it rarely enforces it because of a lack of manpower. The city does inspect complaints about snow on sidewalks.

The city is responsible for maintaining 3.9 miles of sidewalks. The majority of those are located along Scott County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 37; Main Street from the intersection with CSAH 37 to Lincoln Avenue; First Avenue SE from First Street SE to 10th Street SE; and Highway 21 from Seventh Street NW to Fifth Street SW.

City Planner Ken Ondich researched the ordinance, contacting communities and receiving replies from 12 of them. Among them were local cities, such as Lonsdale and Elko New Market, and others like Park Rapids. Most of the cities have a policy stating that adjacent property owners should remove the snow within 24 hours after the snowfall ends. Like New Prague, most of the communities investigate complaints but rarely remove the snow themselves, instead sending notices or letters to get people to comply.

During its February 5 meeting, the New Prague City Council discussed its options. There was a consensus that city sidewalks should be cleared, but how to get it done was the main issue.

Council members Kay Wilcox and Jennifer Flicek agreed that the city should enforce its ordinance. Wilcox believed they should base enforcement on complaints.

Councilmember Jim Kratochvil said there were a lot of responsible people in the community. If the city were to send a notice to a resident, it may be enough to motivate them to remove the snow, he said.

City Administrator Jerry Bohnsack explained that notices would likely be sent to both the owner of the property and the person renting it. He added that the city attorney would have to do some research regarding liability issues.

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