Minneapolis has issued a snow emergency that starts at 9 p.m. Thursday. Along with the reminder that parking rules go into effect, Mike Kennedy of the Minneapolis Public Works department is imploring property owners to shovel their sidewalks.
People either forget or neglect to clear the walks in front of their homes and businesses after a snow fall, Kennedy told the Transportation and Public Works Committee Tuesday. He said the city is looking for "innovative ways" to deliver the message and get the word out.
"Property owners are responsible for upkeep of sidewalks and shoveling as they are part of the transportation network," Kennedy said. "It is an important concept, and the Pedestrian Advisory Committee is trying stronger enforcement."
So far this winter, the city has received 2,168 complaints as of Friday. It also issued 332 work orders for city crews to clear the sidewalks. In 65 cases, property owners did the job before city crews arrived.
Last year the city has 2,855 complaints and issued public works staff to clear sidewalks in 383 times. In 145 of those cases, the property owner did it before crews arrived.
When complaints come in, the city sends the property owner a warning letter stating the sidewalk must be cleared. It includes the language from the city ordinance that says "please remove all snow and ice from the public sidewalk, full width and down to the pavement." The idea behind the warning letter is to "hopefully bring more compliance," Kennedy said.
Once a letter is received, property owners are given a day or two to clear the sidewalk before being assessed for the work.
Kennedy said many people say they don't know that it is a requirement to remove snow from sidewalks. He said the city tries to get the word out through newsletters, informational videos that play on the city's website and YouTube channel. The city also runs announcements on Comcast cable TV channels.
Reminders also are included in city utility bills and calls made to alert residents about snow emergencies also include the phrase "please remember to shovel your sidewalk."
Kennedy acknowledges that this has been a "hard winter what with the Polar Vortex and snow that has been difficult to move. That might be one reason for an increase in the number of complaints and letters issued this year, he said.
For seniors, those who have disabilities and others who need help with the chore, Kennedy said the city will connect them with agencies that can help. Most charge some fee.
Citizens who encounter snow-covered sidewalks can notify the city by calling 311 or online at www.minneapolismn.gov.