Thursday, February 2, 2012

Snowy year means city cracks down on shovel scofflaws and improper parkers

Photo by Rindi White
Lights warm a snowy late-December scene in a Palmer yard.

Snow, snow, snow. Are you tired of it yet?

Extra snow this year has kept local public works crews busy and, at least in our house, depleted our supply of Ibuprofen thanks to shovel-related aches and pains.

City maintenance superintendent Greg Wickham said the city has already filled its three snow-dump spots and three new ones are nearly full too. His three-man crew has logged a lot of overtime already, and there are still at least two months of winter to go.

“In a normal year, you go through freeze-thaw cycles and the snow is reduced,” he said. “On a normal year, it probably wouldn’t be such a source of frustration and anger – it’s been an unusual snow (year).”

The frustration and anger is coming from a few places. The city has received a bunch of calls from residents upset at having their driveways plowed in. City work crews are upset that residents leave their vehicles parked on the street or within the city right-of-way, forcing plows to go around them and create one-lane streets.

Add to that the sidewalk issue – several business owners told the council that they were upset that the city plowed cleaned sidewalks full of nearly impenetrable snow and ice in early December, during the crucial Christmas-shopping season. And some residents have voiced frustration that sidewalks are not cleared in some parts of town until days after snowfall. However you look at the issue, snow is a hot topic in Palmer right now.

Palmer’s Public Works Director Tom Cohenour tackled a few of these issues at Tuesday’s city council meeting. In a memo to the council, Cohenour outlined just how long it takes to remove snow from city streets, airport and sidewalks. Crews try to get roads, airport and even sidewalks plowed in three days’ time, he said. But just clearing the airport of two inches of snow takes about 11 hours, he said.

Cohenour said clearing could be improved dramatically if city codes related to snow removal were enforced. He’s advocating the city take a stronger stance on enforcement.

In other words, look out residents – brush up on the rules or you might soon be facing fines.

City code requires property owners or occupants remove snow promptly. But putting it on the sidewalk, in the street or in an alley is illegal. This can be an issue for some downtown businesses, for whom there really is nothing more than sidewalk, street and alley available. Cohenour said those businesses can either haul it away or otherwise get rid of the snow – melt it, perhaps? – but get rid of it they must. If they wait for city workers to remove it, they’ll get a bill in the mail.

The other law Cohenour is asking city leaders to better enforce regards parking during snowstorms. If your vehicle is parked on the street or in the city right-of-way when two inches or more of snow have fallen, you could get ticketed or towed.

Cohenour said police have already towed a few vehicles. Wickham said he was out taking pictures of other illegally parked vehicles Wednesday, photos that will be forwarded to police to take further action.

City Clerk Janette Bower recently recorded a city-wide call-out that reminded residents that city crews would be out clearing roads overnight during a recent snow event. Wickham said he thought the call-out reminder had some effect – it seemed the plow operators had to plow around fewer vehicles, he said.

“I believe that a lot of residents aren’t aware of the code,” Wickham said.

-- Rindi White


Anonymous said...

I agree with the frustration with the snow, maybe patience is in order, spring will come and the snow will melt. Having said that I love when the City claims it will start enforcing code? My experience in dealing with the City administration is that if you have a problem you are the problem! The City breaks its own code daily and who fines them. The Economic Developement board has tried to address problems with the administration and unworkable codes with no results for their efforts. Our City Manager is a do nothing who lives in Anchorage, Call the Mayor and council the codes need change and administration needs change.

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