Snow removal could be done by city

By Jeff Smith

Dale Householder, planning and zoning commission chairman, talks about an architectural styles ordinance as new commission member Keith VanNess gets acquainted with the information in his packet on March 5.

Hill City is hopefully coming to the end of the snowfall season soon but the city and members of the planning and zoning commission are looking to try to make the city more walkable after it snows.

One of the big things that the Planning and Zoning Commission discussed last Monday night was a resolution to set a fee for sidewalk snow removal conducted by Hill City’s Public Works Department.

There is a 48-hour window to clear snow from sidewalks after the snow event has terminated. Dani Schade, development services coordinator, said there hasn’t  been anything on the books about the charges for removing snow and ice from private property. This resolution would affect commercial and residential property.

“I went through with Dennis (Schrier) and we kind of went through and calculated the cost of removal for a 25 ft. section of sidewalk,” Schade said.

Schade said it seems like everybody now understands that snow removal is their own responsibility but there is still going to be times when people aren’t going to remove snow.

The charge would be $60.35. In addition, there will be a ticket violation that might bring about extra costs too. The cost is intended to hurt the businesses because the city doesn’t want to be in the snow removal business.

Keith VanNess, who is a new commissioner, asked if the school district woud be affected by the resolution. He said some areas of the sidewalk by the schools in hard to reach areas like by light poles are not cleared.

The school district could be subject to fines and tickets in the future if there is a problem with their stretch of sidewalk.

Later, VanNess also brought up the fact that there is nothing that states the amount of snow that needs to fall in order to have business owners clear their sidewalks.

Schade said there used to be something that clarified this matter in the current ordinance but it was taken out.

Dale Householder, chairman of the planning and zoning commission, said it might be something to address later on.

Brett McMacken, city administrator, said that the ordinance shouldn’t be so specific that people are out with tape measures.  People still need to understand the rules of the game, he said.

“If the code needs to be updated to reflect certain aspects to clarify things we can work on that,” McMacken said.

Some of what will happen is up to Schade’s discretion and she does not want a whole lot of people that are riled up. McMacken said it would not be in the city’s best ed that the snow will need to be moved under a three inch snow event or something like that.

Schade originally thought it would be ok just to have one pathway of the section with the double sidewalk cleared.

Schade said that because of the side where the double sidewalk is being renovated, and there is usually a plow that comes down and moves snow back into the lower section making business owners clear both of the sidewalks seems unfair.

Kathy Skorzewski, alderwoman for Hill City, said she would like Schade to enforce the lower part of the sidewalk because it also makes it hard for people to exit their cars.

Lorena Freis with Farmer’s Daughter said she does her whole entire sidewalk and then the Department of Transportation comes by and she has to shovel it all again.

“If you are not going to require the other side of the street to have the lower level cleaned then don’t require me to have mine cleaned,” Freis said.

She suffers with snow being sprayed from plows and thinks that other businesses should have sidewalks that are just as clean. She also said she doesn’t have anywhere to put snow but her landlord pushes the snow away.

Lori Miner, a citizen at the meeting, said that those businesses on the east side of Main St. have to clear their whole sidewalk, then the west side should be required to as well.

“You’ve got two different rules for two different sidewalks here,” Miner said.

Householder brought up that it makes it hard to cross onto the sidewalk when you are parked on the street because snow is piled up on the lower level. He said that people will have to walk to one of the ends of the sidewalk.

Schade said her approach is to get people to clear one sidewalk.

“I’m looking for effort, people taking responsibility,” Schade said.

The snow removal ordinance hasn’t been enforced for a number of years but Schade is trying to be reasonable.

Commissioner Les Gonyer struggled with one charge in the cost calculation with the $21 per hour due to the fact that they are taking public works people from other city projects. Plus, he was thinking it would be better to have a charge for clearing a certain lot size instead of a 25 ft. stretch because it would take the same amount of time.

“We’re trying to show people the justification for the amount but we don’t want it small enough where people think that the city is in the snow removal business,” Schade said.

Schade said the whole point of the resolution is to have a deterrent and they don’t want people to use the city for snow removal. Making different price amounts for snow removal wouldn’t make sense. At the end of discussion the commission decided to move the resolution forward to the city council.

The commission also decided to discontinue their research about the garbage removal service. 

Jim Peterson, city council member, said that the mandatory option for the service seemed to give people heartburn, a recycling program would be well-received and the cost is the determining factor.

Householder also brought up how there were people that leave for the winter and it is a problem. Schade said the fact that people won’t have service during part of the year would be an accounting nightmare. Schade said the companies she talked to would like to have the city handle the billing through a water and sewer bill.

Gonyer said in discussing the issue with his wife there was a realization that there isn’t a problem.

“I think pretty much everyone handles their garbage through a contractor or, like me, hauls the garbage down to Rapid City,” Gonyer said.

In terms of recycling, Schade said it might be a good idea to get information out about where to take recyclables and post it on the city website. It would give people the option to recycle and the city would step back from the process.

The city is also planning to hold a hearing on the issue of changing the ordinance for architectural standards for new construction and exterior renovations.

The hearing is to be informal but would let people know what would be required for exterior renovations and new buildings. The hearing will be taking place at the next planning and zoning meeting.