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“I literally had to ask for help,” she said. “Sometimes you just aren’t in the mood to ask for help.”
Willshire said one of the biggest differences she’s noticed between this winter and previous ones is a lack of shoveling.
“I don’t know if they don’t take it seriously enough, but it just seems like we’re not getting things addressed in the best way possible at all this year, and we’ve got to take it seriously,” she said.
It’s one reason the Council on Disability is hosting a news conference Friday, to make the issue more visible and clarify who is responsible for walkway maintenance.
The city of Minneapolis requires property owners to clear their sidewalks within 24 hours after a snowfall. Apartment and commercial building owners have just four daytime hours, beginning at 8 a.m.
If residents complain about an un-shoveled area, the city inspects the area and gives the property owner a deadline for clearing the walkway. If it isn’t cleared by the deadline, a city crew clears it and the property owner is billed for the service.
Property owners are responsible for sidewalks and curb cuts, but the city is responsible for corners.
‘We are behind’
Heidi Hamilton, deputy director of Public Works, said city crews, using about 20 Bobcats, recently cleared every corner in Minneapolis. But then the Feb. 20 storm hit and erased all their work.
“We are behind,” she said last week. “This has been an extraordinary winter, and it’s been difficult to keep up.”
Minneapolis is in the third year of a pilot program experimenting with hiring contract crews to enforce sidewalk shoveling in the Northeast and Uptown neighborhoods, said Mike Kennedy, director of transportation maintenance and repair. Similar programs in north and south Minneapolis are comparing the cost and speed of corner clearing by contract and city crews.
The Council on Disability and Metro Mobility are both trying to encourage property owners to shovel their walks. But they haven’t yet seen tangible results.
Sitting in the Council on Disability’s St. Paul offices last Friday, Imdieke Cross looked through a street-facing window and pointed outside.
“There’s a guy with a shovel,” she said. “This time of year, that’s my favorite sight.”
Emma Nelson is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.