, Salem, MA

February 14, 2013

Clearing things up

Residents fined for failing to shovel sidewalks


---- — SALEM — More than 100 residents have been fined for not shoveling the sidewalks in front of their homes, many of which were covered with 2 feet of snow from the weekend storm.

City inspectors started handing out $25 tickets on Tuesday, nearly three days after the snow stopped flying from the Blizzard of 2013.

“It’s 100 percent a safety issue,” said Tom St. Pierre, the director of inspectional services. “We want pedestrians up on the sidewalk and off the street.”

City crews and private contractors plowed sidewalks near schools and throughout the downtown, but clearing the majority of sidewalks is the responsibility of residents.

St. Pierre said many homeowners and tenants have done a good job.

“Considering the severity of the storm, we’ve been impressed with the number of people who got out there and did some work,” he said. “A lot of people have done a lot of good work, and we appreciate that, especially around schools and on main streets.”

St. Pierre said he realizes some sidewalks have been buried under several feet of snow by city or private plows. In those cases, he said inspectors will use their judgment as long as it appears that residents are making an effort.

However, a significant number of sidewalks that could be shoveled remain untouched, he said.

Many residents, for example, were ticketed along Lafayette Street and Marlborough Road.

Although the fines go up to $100 for a third offense, St. Pierre insisted the enforcement action has nothing to do with the money.

“We’re very concerned about the lack of sidewalks,” he said.

Those concerns are highest, he said, in neighborhoods where young children and others are forced to walk in the streets.

The city had issued more than 100 tickets by midday yesterday. St. Pierre estimated that 200 tickets will have been handed out by today.

A Salem city ordinance requires home and business owners to remove snow from sidewalks within six hours after a storm has ended or the snow emergency lights have been turned off. The city also has a bylaw for sidewalk ice removal.

Salem is offering help to anyone who needs assistance. A number of teenagers have signed up to shovel, the city said. Anyone interested can email and type “shoveling help” in the subject line.

Peabody also has a sidewalk snow removal ordinance. So far, however, city inspectors and police are only writing warning letters and knocking on doors to remind residents of their legal obligation.

“We’re not issuing civil fines here in Peabody as of yet,” Deputy police Chief Scott Carrier said.

He said they will fine residents if it’s a serious public safety issue, but “due to the nature of this storm, we’re trying to work with residents and businesses and have them clear their own” sidewalks.

Peabody DPW crews, he said, have been making an “extra effort” to clear sidewalks.

Carrier conceded, however, that based on a drive around the city yesterday there still were a “significant” number of sidewalks blocked by snow.

There are other communities, including Danvers and Beverly, that don’t have sidewalk snow removal ordinances.

Tom Dalton can be reached at