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Crying Wolf on Snow Regulations

posted Feb 17, 2015, 5:41 AM by Doug Roberts   [ updated Feb 17, 2015, 5:44 AM ]
Many of my neighbors found notes taped to their front doors last week, with bright green tape, informing them that if they didn't shovel the sidewalks in front of their homes, they'd be assessed a fine or thrown in jail.


Shoveling the sidewalk in front of the house is just a good neighborly thing to do. I wish more of my neighbors would do so.  And yes, it is a violation of Village Code to leave snow on the sidewalk for longer than 24 hours after a storm, punishable by $250 or 15 days in jail.  

But let's use a little common sense at Village Hall.  The code also states that the Village can clear the sidewalks on behalf of the homeowner and then bill the charges to the homeowner via a lien against the house.  The goal here is to get the sidewalks clean, not to threaten to throw people in the slammer.  

Here's what we'll do next year when you put me on The Board:

1. Make an open and VERY PUBLIC call for all homeowners, especially second homeowners, to register their email addresses or cell phone numbers with The Village for alerts about various weather and utility events and emergencies.

2. Start communicating to this list in August- before second homeowners depart for the season- about making a plan for snow removal when they are out of town.

3. Put out an RFI (Request for Information) asking Village residents ONLY who would like to be on a list of snow removal services to submit a proposal to The Village that includes contact information, kinds of services they can provide (i.e. plow, shoveling walks, etc.) and their pricing, as well as any other pertinent information that would be useful to potential clients. Note this is ONLY for people who live in the village to help local folks earn money during the slower off-season.  Potential applicants need only show proof of a Greenport address. 

4. Publish the list of potential snow removal vendors on the website for homeowners - especially second homeowners- to use to contact a snow removal service.  

5. Then, next year, we'll have fewer violators, making it a manageable project for us to send our crews out to shovel violators' sidewalks and bill them for it.  

The truth is that everybody I've talked to who got this notice taped to their door scoffed at it, knowing that the Village wouldn't actually enforce the law. That's the reputation our Village Board has cultivated over the last few years- everybody just ignores them and moves on. And how is The Village posting signs on peoples' doors about snow removal when the boardwalk in Mitchell Park- a heavily traveled walkway in town- hasn't been shoveled in weeks and is basically an ice rink?  

I've heard from others that we send out nasty notes about cutting off utility service when somebody who has paid their bills dutifully for years misses a monthly payment. This kind of communication with our customers needs to stop.  Come April, we're going to stop Crying Wolf, and we're going to be deliberate about our communications with the public. And we are definitely going to get the sidewalks clear!