As a result of growing costs and concerns over legal liability, a plan to provide snow shoveling services for elderly and disabled residents in Hyattsville might never come to fruition, according to Mayor Marc Tartaro.
"It sounds as though this may be fatally flawed," said Tartaro at this past Monday's meeting of the Hyattsville City Council. "At the end of the day, we need to see if there's another solution. If not, there is no solution."
Back in November, the city council passed two measures designed to make it easier for the city's elderly residents to deal with snow shoveling.
One measure made the city's sidewalk snow removal law more flexible. The other measure sought bids from area non-profit agencies to manage a snow removal assistance fund to help income-qualified seniors and persons with disabilities to clear public sidewalks which line their properties.
City officials envisioned a program which would provide residents with an income of 200 percent above the federal poverty level or less–$22,300 for a one person household, $30,200 for a two person household–as well as those 60-years-old or older age with snow shoveling services.
Citing longstanding city policy prohibiting city employees and contractors from performing work on private property, city staff had recommended that the city not manage the program directly. Instead the program would be administered by a non-profit agency which would handle program enrollment and provide services.
But the proposal before the city council on Monday, submitted by CASA De Maryland, a non-profit organization known mostly for their advocacy on behalf of Hispanic immigrants in Maryland, was criticized for its higher than expected costs and concerns over legal liability.
After starting at $12,000, the plan approved by city council in November calls for $22,000 for the program. CASA De Maryland's proposal would cost $26,700 to provide intake services, recruitment, training and dispatch of the snow shovelers, worker screening, project oversight, and administrative costs. That money does not include the money needed to actually pay the snow shovelers, however. CASA De Maryland's proposal calls for the city to contract services with the snow shovelers.
"I can appreciate the money needed to do this. But that doesn't even cover the cost of shoveling the snow," said Councilor Tim Hunt (Ward 3) while discussing CASA De Maryland's proposal at Monday's city council meeting.
The city's relationship with the snow shovelers under CASA's plan was also criticized by Richard Colaresi, attorney for the city of Hyattsville. He argued that the city could open itself up to legal liability if the city was directly paying for the services of the snow shovelers.
"I think we need to slow down," said Colaresi, "I think there are a lot of flaws here. We're allowing someone else to determine who gets the service and we're paying them?"
"The goal was to write a check to monitor the books and activities," said Tartaro. "This sounds like we're directly involved with payroll and other things that we're not looking to be involved with."
The city council took no action on the measure and directed city staff to seek more information and clarification from CASA De Maryland about certain parts of the proposal.