Hyattsville City Council members will consider two measures designed to make the city's sidewalk snow shoveling law more flexible and accommodate the elderly who may have a hard time clearing their walkways of snow and ice.
"There is widespread recognition that clearing sidewalks is an important public safety matter and a civic duty," reads a memo from Abby Sandel, acting community services director for the city. "However, residents have expressed frustration over shoveling snow more than once following a storm because plows have re-deposited snow from the road onto the sidewalk."
Currently, Hyattsville city code requires property owners and residents to clear their sidewalks within 24 hours after snow or sleet has stopped falling. Failure to do so is punishable by a $100 fine for a first offense.
Those opposed to the expansion of sidewalks in residential neighborhoods frequently cite the city's snow removal law as an unwanted legal liability forced upon them if public pedestrian walkways are built along their property. This rhetoric has reappeared as city officials progress through the preliminary design phase for streetscape infrastructure improvements in University Hills.
Getting An Extension
The first measure under consideration tonight would allow the city's head code enforcement officer, after consulting with the city administrator and the public works director, the discretion to extend the snow removal requirement time limit based on snow accumulations.
"The best course of action is to extend snowfall removal windows on a case-by-case basis, with an unerstanding that the 24-hour window is appropriate for the majority of storms Hyattsville experiences in a typical winter," reads a memo from Abby Sandel.
Average annual snowfall in the Washington, D.C. region range from 16-22 inches according to annual snowfall averages compiled by the National Weather Service at Dulles and Reagan-National airports.
Senior Snow Removal Fund
A second measure before council for discussion would create a fund to help low income seniors and those with disabilities pay for snow removal services.
"As our population ages, there is a very real concern that older residents may not be physically able to clear their sidewalks. A harsh winter can also impose a financial burden should those on a limited income be forced to pay for snow removal services multiple times," reads another memo from Sandel outlining the snow removal assistance fund.
City staff recommend that a grant fund be set up in partnership with a local nonprofit organization to screen applicants for eligibility. Initial plans for the fund would allow residents aged 60 and over with income 200 percent below the $22,300, single-person household federal poverty level.
The selected nonprofit would then provide snow removal services at a reasonable rate, projected to be around $20 per hour, for eligible residents paid for through the fund.
City staff suggest starting the program with a $12,000 appropriation and then issuing a request for proposals from area nonprofit organizations to handle the legwork.
The Hyattsville city council will consider these two measures at its 8 p.m. meeting today at the Hyattsville Municipal Building on Gallatin Street. The meeting is broadcast on Comcast channel 71 and Verizon channel 12.