Boulder councilman pushes for weekend enforcement of snow removal
Feb 25, 2013 (Daily Camera - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
As Boulder prepares for its third snowfall in a week, Councilman Ken Wilson said the city needs to do more to enforce its snow removal ordinance, in particular when snow falls just before the weekend, as it did on Thursday.
Boulder's law gives residents 24 hours from the time the last snow falls to shovel their sidewalks.
For people who live on corner properties, that means both (or all) sides of the property. If the sidewalk is still snowy after that, first offenders get warnings, while second and subsequent offenders will be charged for the snow removal.
However, residents got a pass on shoveling the snow that fell last Thursday because the 24-hour deadline fell late Friday.
In response to an inquiry from Wilson, City Manager Jane Brautigam said the police department's three code enforcement officers don't work on the weekend.
"Code enforcement will begin again on Monday," Brautigam wrote in an email to City Council on Friday. "Our code enforcement team does an excellent job of addressing issues and will do all they can within the strictures of the ordinance to handle snow removal calls."
By Monday, of course, Boulder residents had shoveled out -- or not -- from a much larger storm that dropped 8.3 inches over the weekend. Officers will be enforcing the snow removal ordinance Tuesday -- the deadline for removal was 7:39 p.m. Monday -- but more snow is expected this afternoon.
Wilson said keeping sidewalks clear is important to the city's goal of encouraging people to walk instead of drive their cars.
"I think we should be able to do some code enforcement on the weekends," he said. "It's like plowing the streets. We would never say that could wait until Monday. Pedestrians being able to walk safely is a big priority of the city."
'We do a decent job'
Boulder Mayor Matt Appelbaum said the city needs to strike a balance between making sure people follow the rules and not being too strict.
He said the city probably needs to increase enforcement around a variety of code compliance issues, not just snow removal, but he would support putting more money into code enforcement if that's what is needed.
"I think we do a decent job, but it's clear we can do a better job," he said. "And part of it is the difficulty of enforcing this stuff, and part of it is a budget and staffing issue."
Code enforcement supervisor Jennifer Riley said her officers take a consistent approach to snowstorms, with the exception of weekends.
"We are serious about every snowfall," Riley said. "After 24 hours of stop-of-snowfall, we do start enforcement."
The first priority goes to complaints that are called in, Riley said. If a code enforcement officer sees other snowy sidewalks near a property that was the subject of a complaint, those homes will get violation notices as well.
Once complaints have been handled, officers will do proactive enforcement and write violation notices for snowy sidewalks they find on their own, with a focus on sidewalks near schools, Riley said.
Just one warning
Boulder residents get one warning per snow season, Riley said.
On the first offense, residents get a written notice of violation that gives them another 24 hours to clear the sidewalk. After that, the address goes on an abatement list. If officers get another complaint, they'll have a snow removal contractor clear the walk and bill the property owner. The costs ranges from $50 to $300, depending on how much sidewalk needs to be cleared and how much work it is to chip through packed snow and ice.
More snow is expected today, but accumulation shouldn't be more than an inch, according to the National Weather Service.
Riley said city officials will be meeting to discuss how to provide more snow removal enforcement on the weekends.
"We're always open to improving the way that we do things," she said.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Erica Meltzer at 303-473-1355 or email@example.com.
Tuesday: Snow likely after 2 p.m., with new accumulation of less than one inch. Mostly cloudy with a high near 31 degrees. Overnight low near 16 degrees.
Wednesday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 35 degrees. Overnight low near 15 degrees.
Thursday: Partly sunny, with a high near 36 degrees. Overnight low near 21 degrees.
Source: National Weather Service
Boulder ordinance requires that sidewalks be shoveled within 24 hours of the last snowfall.
To report an unshoveled sidewalk, call the Boulder police non-emergency number at 303-441-3333.
To get assistance shoveling your sidewalk, call Ice Busters at 303-443-1899. Ice Busters is always looking for volunteers to help shovel sidewalks for elderly people and people with disabilities.
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