Snow removal talks persist

By Jeff Smith

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Although there was only one action item on the agenda for the March 19 meeting with the planning and zoning commission, it took up the most time at the meeting.

This was the Resolution 2018-04 which is setting the fee for sidewalk snow removal. The city council previously tabled the resolution due to a suggestion by the city attorney and other city council concerns.

Dani Schade, development services coordinator for the city, wanted to bring it up again in order to have some questions answered.

Schade said the suggestion from Frank Bettmann, city attorney, was to add that the city is looking at clearing 25 linear feet stretch of a frontage. The fee for snow removal would be $60 of a 25 linear feet frontage.

“It won’t matter if it is a double sidewalk or a single sidewalk,” Schade said.

The resolution affects residential areas and commercial areas. 

She also said that there was some confusion in the fine and the fee to remove. There would be both if a property owner would be in violation of not clearing the snow. The current ordinance states that the fine is $25 for the first offense and $50 for the second offense. After the second offense there would need to be a court appearance.

Schade would like to see the part about having a court appearance removed because as soon as an attorney is involved it will cost the city more than the amount collected to enforce the ordinance.

The fee put forward by the planning and zoning commission deals strictly with the snow removal that would be done by the Public Works Department. If the property owners don’t pay that fee, a tally would be marked down internally and there would be a process to collect the money the city is owed. A bill for the fee will go out to the property owners and the city could assess the fines against the property.

Schade said it’s a way to not have to involve a lawyer.

Jim Peterson, alderman for the city council, was sitting next to the city attorney during the conversation on the changes and thought that there would be a deterrent in the fee.

According to Peterson, Bettman thought that there should be an escalation clause in the fee.

“Initially I was opposed to a deterrent in both, but when he explains to me that it is going to have much more cost savings, the deterrent part of it, versus in the fine, whether it’s a year or two at some point they will get paid,” Peterson said.

Some components of the snow removal fee could be taken out, such as the $21 charge of taking a person away from another Public Works task, and an escalation clause could be put in.

Peterson thought that it would be easier to assess and collect the fee than the fine.

Each time a property owner doesn’t clear a sidewalk there could be a fee that would go up.

Peterson would not worry about having a fine because there would be money received through a collected fee.

The current ordinance states that sidewalks should be cleared 48 hours after a snow event.

Bob Farrar, Black Hills Institute of Geological Research co-owner, said in looking at the ordinance one thing the ordinance states is snow removal will charge “cost” to person who didn’t remove snow.

“It doesn’t say anything about a penalty or fine,” Farrar said.

He thought the current ordinance should be re-written.

Farrar also thought the 48-hour timeframe was a reasonable amount of time to have snow removed.

“There are a lot of non-resident landowners and it takes a little while to know there is a measurable snow precipitation event and they have to have someone go to their business or vacation home to remove snow,” Farrar said.

At the city council meeting there was talk about what a snow event is and defining it. In the future there could be a look at the current ordinance concerning the snow removal in the city. Most of the planning and zoning commission was in favor of an overhaul and revamping of the current ordinance concerning snow removal.

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