Don't Forget to Shovel Your Sidewalk
Local municipalities have snow-shoveling ordinances on the books that call for fines, and in some cases, jail time.
There’s nothing quite as heavenly as watching little snowflakes fall, eventually burying everything outside with a soft, white blanket.
But when that fresh snow is covering your sidewalk, the scenic wintry landscape can quickly turn into an artistic nightmare.
Let's face it. Snow shoveling is hard work and the domestic chore isn’t for the faint at heart, literally. Hospitals across the country treat an average of about 11,500 snow-shoveling related injuries and medical emergencies a year, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine.
Still, local municipalities do have snow-shoveling rules in place to make sure the postal carrier’s slip-and-fall accident wasn’t the result of some homeowner’s willful neglect.
In Sewickley, Borough Manager Kevin Flannery said property owners must have all snow cleared from the sidewalks within 24 hours of every snowfall. Borough ordinance requires sidewalks to be "clean and free of snow, ice, leaves and any other structure or substance" that could obstruct motorists, or inconvenience or injure pedestrians.
Flannery said if a homeowner fails to clear out the snow, they may receive a citation.
“A lot of people have been cited over the years,” Flannery said.
Leetsdale Manager Paul Scimio said the borough’s ordinance gives residents 24 hours after the snow has stopped to clear the sidewalks.
“If not, you can get cited,” Scimio said.
Sandra Basjec, the borough’s junior clerk, said the ordinance was first adopted in 1969, when the penalty included a $25 fine or up to five days in jail. The ordinance was later amended in 1991 to include fines of up to $600 and up to 30 days in jail.
Property owners alongside the streets are required to remove snow and ice from sidewalks in the front. If an owner is neglectful, Basjec said the borough could proceed to clear the snow and charge the property owner the cost plus an additional 10 percent.
But Scimio admitted the borough rarely gets tough on residents with citations.
“I don’t know that we’ve ever, ever cited anyone,” he said.
In smaller communities such as Haysville, Council President Catherine Paff said the borough of 78 residents doesn’t have that much sidewalk to begin with.
“We only probably have 50 feet of sidewalks in the whole borough and most of those people clean their sidewalks,” Paff said.