City works on changing its snow removal policy

Jeremy Hebebrand

Changes to focus on stricter rules, education

Winter is approaching, and it is no secret Kent gets a lot of snow.

Kent has been working on changing the current policy and tightening snow removal rules for both citizens and the city itself, thus ensuring safer routes and transportation after snow storms.

Gary Locke, director of community development, has been part of the process of changing the current policy.

The policy changes are focused on education and how to get people to move their snow in an efficient way, Locke said.

The biggest difficulty with snow is when it gets to be more than 6 inches high. The snow gets piled on in the wrong places, and that is the problem, Locke said.

Council-at-Large member Rick Hawksley has been working on the new sidewalk policy, with others, for more than a year.

The now five-part change has been refined many times in order to focus on better enforcement of the rules and stronger neighborhood cooperation by using a less aggressive approach, Hawksley said.

The first part of the policy change focuses on changing obstruction of the right of way by snow from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction. Currently, if citizens do not shovel their sidewalks after a large snowfall or shovel their snow into the street, the police can charge them with a misdemeanor.

The change in the policy gives city staff, designated by the city manager, to write simple tickets to the obstructor instead of having the police be involved, Hawksley said.

Eugene Roberts, director of the public service department in Kent, has also been working on reviewing and refining these changes to the current policy.

There are major issues at intersections where snowplows turn corners and push snow into large piles in other lanes or at the side of the street, Roberts said.

“The city spent something like $250,000 to clear city sidewalks (last year), and in this economy, that is just not doable anymore,” Roberts said.

A proposed $50,000 will be added to the snow removal budget if the policy changes are passed. The city budget follows the calendar year. For the end of this year, a proposed $20,000 will be given for snow removal while starting Jan. 1, the $30,000 will be added for the 2010 fiscal year, Roberts said.

Another change in the policy will require anyone in the city who operates a snowplow to obtain a license from the city.

The license will include a set of rules, which will include things such as not pushing snow on the sidewalks and not making large snow piles on the corner of busy streets and intersections.

“If they don’t follow the rules correctly, we will inform them that they have snow in the wrong area, and they will have a time limit to move it, or they will be fined,” Roberts said.

Another section of the policy will allow the administration to develop an educational program for the city about snow removal. This would include such things as door hangers, encouragement of volunteers, providing readily available de-icers, having shovels for rent, working with Kent State and other ways to inform and help the community.

“We would need to get the word out effectively so that citizens know the rules and don’t get ticketed for something they don’t know about,” Hawksley said.

Working in conjunction with the previous policy, a sidewalk clearing subscription service is also in the works. This would provide a way for citizens to learn about how they can hire someone to plow their sidewalks or drives if they are unable to.

“The idea is to not have the city in charge of getting the contractors to plow certain houses, but rather have people contact the contractors themselves and set up times and costs,” Locke said.

Contact public affairs reporter Jeremy Hebebrand at [email protected].