Get out and shovel that snow

Melissa Dilley

Taylor Collins bounces to class, jumping over certain spots on his walk, ensuring he doesn’t slip on the ice patches that cover College Avenue sidewalks.

Despite his dismay with the conditions, the sophomore electronic media productions major admits he and his housemates haven’t done much this winter besides put rock salt on the steps leading to the front porch. Instead, he said he thinks Kent should be responsible for clearing snow and ice from walkways.

“The houses aren’t (the city’s), but the sidewalks are, and if they’re willing to make the streets good for drivers, why not the sidewalks safe for the walkers?” Collins said.

Before this winter, Collins and all Kent residents relied on the city to provide citations for those whose sidewalks weren’t cleared, but this year city council has decided to take a different approach — the honor system.

Because no one was ever cited for having unkempt sidewalks and there was no one to enforce the former policy, the city is giving up control of the code.

“We haven’t enforced the natural accumulation (on sidewalks) because there would literally be thousands of houses we would have to enforce it on, “ Troy Loomis, city code enforcement officer, said. “It would be impossible.”

While homeowners and renters won’t be fined, they will be held up to scrutiny by their neighbors. One way neighbors can deal with someone who won’t clear a sidewalk is by picking up door hangers available at the city offices that will remind them of their civil duty.

Ward 5 councilwoman Heidi Shaffer suggested students buy a shovel now, before a big snowstorm and be considerate when thinking of neighbors.

“Snow shovels are cheap; everyone can afford to buy a snow shovel,” Shaffer said. “It is my fervent hope that off-campus students who live in rental houses will take the responsibility to keep their sidewalks clean … if you (clear your sidewalk), they might do theirs, and it’s a chain effect.”

Shaffer also pointed out that sidewalks aren’t just for the students walking to class, but also for elderly residents, dog walkers and city workers among others, so keeping them cleared should be an effort of the entire community.

City council has been working with Dean of Students Greg Jarvie to build a program that would pair students with residents who physically aren’t able to shovel sidewalks and driveways to press the importance of the issue.

Because sidewalk clearing will be left in the hands of Kent residents, the city’s focus this winter will be on snow pileups that obstruct views or cover sidewalks.

Loomis said he has given warnings to numerous businesses so far, but no citations.

Those businesses or residents who fail to heed warnings will face a first-time fee of $100, which escalates with each offense.

As for those who are concerned about sidewalk snow pileup from city plows clearing the road, Kent has hired a private contractor.

The contractor is using a new plowing system to ensure the snow is pushed down the road and into corners instead of intersections.

So far this winter, the city plows have cleared 151 intersections to avoid obstructive snow piles.

Contact public affairs reporter Melissa Dilley at [email protected].