Council passes amendment to allot $20,000 for snow removal

Kyle Roerink

Heidi L. Shaffer, councilwoman for Ward Five, watched a legally blind woman nearly get hit by a car on Summit Street last winter. The snow on the sidewalk had not been shoveled, so the woman had to walk on the street.

For the past year, city council members were at an impasse regarding how to better deal with keeping Kent’s sidewalks clear for pedestrians and streets clear for vehicles. Last night at a council committee meeting, following the official council meeting, members passed an amendment that would allot an additional $20,000 for snow removal this winter.

Even though the amendment was passed, the problem has not been completely solved. Four more motions that council members discussed have not been put into effect.

A current ordinance states that if homeowners or tenants who have a sidewalk do not have it shoveled after a snowstorm, they can receive a citation. The citation is a misdemeanor for not clearing the area in front of their dwellings. One motion would change the charge from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction, which is the same as receiving a parking ticket.

Two motions concern the hiring of private snowplow operators to help clear the sidewalks and roads. If the motions are passed, these private contractors would clear the mounds of snow that are left behind by the city’s operators. They would also clear sidewalks that homeowners and tenants may not have cleared.

“It’s difficult to get people to comply with the ordinances we have on the books to shovel their sidewalks,” Shaffer said. “And then some of the issues on the main roads where the problem is made worse when snowplows plow parking lots and put mounds of snow, say, right on Route 59 where I have seen people walking on the streets (after snow removal).”

The final motion would administer a good neighbor campaign that encourages volunteers from the university, Kent Roosevelt High School and community members to use de-icer, shovels or snow blowers to help clear snow from areas in the community.

Robin G. Turner, councilman at-large, said the $20,000 amendment council passed last night is a better way of dealing with the problem of snow removal than using mandated legal sanctions and private contractors. The money allotted will allow the city to clear critical locations with large mounds of ice and snow without hiring private contractors or paying employees overtime.

Shaffer said this winter will be different because there will be a much bigger push for people to clear their own sidewalks and clear up the misconceptions about the legal consequences for removing snow.

“Truth be told, they might get a citation if they shovel their sidewalk onto their driveway,” she said. “But we are going to leave alone the people who don’t shovel their sidewalks, aiming more for the bigger problem of obstructing the sidewalks as to create a real safety hazard.”

Contact public affairs reporter Kyle Roerink at [email protected]