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Sanctions for a Snowy Sidewalk?

Updated: 02/18/2014 10:10 PM
Created: 02/18/2014 8:55 PM WDIO.com
By: Travis Dill
tdill@wdio.com

Warmer weather was a blessing for Northlanders digging out their driveways on Tuesday, but Duluth residents could not forget their sidewalks. Failure to fling the sidewalk snow means risking a $200 fine, but is it really a gamble?

Mountains of snow, ice and slush left a lot to the imagination on Observation Hill. Tyler Christensen said a sidewalk could be found somewhere underneath.

“There is yep. Up the whole block actually,” Christensen said.

A few inches here, another foot there and the snow piles up, but with each new layer a Duluth city ordinance requires residents to carve a trench 36 inches wide. If not done within 24 hours less motivated shovelers could technically get a $200 fine.

It's something Christensen wasn't too worried about.

“Oh no, no I'd probably appeal it anyway. I mean it's just relentless. You can't stop mother nature,” Christensen said.

But police do not patrol with sidewalk enforcement in mind according to Sergeant Chad Nagorski.

“I've never written a citation for that. I don't know if one's been written, but, I mean it's just there as a tool for people who just absolutely refuse,” Nagorski said.

He said police get some complaints from neighbors, but a few words from an officer can usually remove the problem. Nagorksi said strict enforcement could be a burden for some unable to shovel the sidewalk.

“Part of it is the people that normally don't are usually very elderly people, and we're not going to go out and cite someone because they are too old to go out and shovel their sidewalk,” Nagorski said.

But younger residents like Jason Vanwert were thankful for the leniency.

“I think there'd be a lot of $200 fines. Looks like about a couple thousand looking around now, I mean, if they were going to do it. They've got mercy on the good people though,” Vanwert said.

So the ordinance has more bark than bite, but police said that is no excuse for making others tromp through the snow.

“Just be a good neighbor,” Nagorski said.

Police said renters can technically leave sidewalk snow removal up to their landlords, but Nagorski hoped everyone could be courteous with more snow in the forecast for Thursday.

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