Portland sidewalk snow removal, a 'perennial council discussion,' is back again

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PORTLAND — As sure as the snow will fly, clearing snow and ice from sidewalks has residents riled up and demanding the city re-examine into its sidewalk clearing policy.

“People obviously get frustrated this time of year,” Councilor David Marshall said this week. “Sidewalk clearing has become a perennial discussion on the council.”

This year, the subject has made its way onto an agenda for a Transportation Committee meeting, where councilors were expected to discuss complaints about sidewalk clearing along major arterials.

According to a memo from city Public Services Director Mike Bobinsky, the city has received complaints from residents who live along major arterials in the city where masses of snow have been plowed onto the sidewalks.

One in particular, outer Congress Street resident Janet Daigle, has sent the city multiple e-mail messages, including pictures of snow piles taller than stockade fences.

Daigle said she wants outer Congress Street to be exempt from the snow clearing ordinance.

While the sidewalks along that street were recently cleared by city crews, Marshall said the city needs to resolve to either exempt that stretch of sidewalk, commit city crews to clearing it, or continue with the status quo.

“I think the city should clear it,” he said. But once cleared of the mountains of snow, Marshall said residents should still be responsible for keeping the sidewalks passable – meaning they should salt or sand if the sidewalk is icy.

“They should keep it safe,” he said.

Marshall also said the City Council put money into the budget a couple of years ago for sidewalk clearing along arterials, but took it out last year.

“You know, it didn’t snow last year and I guess everybody forgot about it,” he said. “The city needs to keep resources going.”

Councilor Ed Suslovic, a member of the committee along with Marshall and Chairman Kevin Donoghue, put the item on the agenda. He did not return a request for comment this week. Reached Monday, Donoghue declined to comment.

Residents can be fined for not clearing snow in a timely manner. The city requires sidewalks to be cleared to a 4-foot width within 24 hours after a storm. First-time offenders get warnings. Second offenses are $50, third $100 and each subsequent offense is $200. The sidewalk must also be appropriately sanded or cleared of ice.

The Transportation Committee was scheduled to meet at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 15, at City Hall.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net

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