Keep those sidewalks clear

December 26, 2013
A person walks down the freshly cleared sidewalk. He previously had to walk on the street.

A person walks down the freshly cleared sidewalk. He previously had to walk on the street.

Our View. An editorial by Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief. 

Winter brings on the usual ritual of clearing snow from our driveways. For those of us who live in a town, it may also mean an additional responsibility of clearing sidewalks and fire hydrants as well.

Many municipalities have ordinances that require property owners or building occupants to clear snow from sidewalks. Some even require that fire hydrants be cleared. The City of Ludington only requires those in the Central Business District to keep their sidewalks clear (Section 46-79 of the city code).

The City of Scottville requires all property owners or building occupants to keep their sidewalks cleared, not just those in the business district. According to Chapter 95, section 36 of the city code, violators are subject to a civil fine of not less than $50 for each infraction.

Keep your fire hydrants clear of snow.

Keep your fire hydrants clear of snow.

However, the code in Scottville is not enforced because, as the city attorney once explained to me, not everyone has a sidewalk in front of their property and therefore the law is not equitable. And, after all, we live in a society where everything must be fair and equal (that is sarcasm on my part).

Whether or not the law requires it or not, I make a concerted effort to keep the sidewalk on my block clear. I also try to clear snow away from the fire hydrant at the corner from time to time. To me, the fire hydrant issue is a no brainer. I was a firefighter for 15 years, and it sure makes getting water on a burning house easier when the firefighters don’t have to shovel snow — or worse yet, try to find the buried hydrant. Remember, the firefighters are basically volunteers who get a very small stipend to save our lives and property. Plus, the fire departments are on tight budgets. They don’t get paid to go out and clear hydrants. The budget-strapped departments of public works also don’t do this too often.

Back to the sidewalks. I clear my sidewalk and my neighbors’ sidewalks for a couple reasons. First, it’s just the right thing to do. My neighbor doesn’t have a snowblower and it only takes me an extra five minutes to clear his portion. If I’m really ambitious, like I was today, I’ll even clear out the next block down. It’s just what I was taught to do. My father, to this day, blows snow for his neighbors, I guess that’s probably who I learned it from. We don’t expect anything in return (however, my neighbor did give me a recent shout-out on Facebook and mentioned there’s a cake coming my way soon! Since, he’s a professional chef, I’ll take it).

The other reason I clear the sidewalks is just common sense. First of all, my mail gets delivered to my front porch and I also receive packages often from delivery services. Second, I live near a school. I really can’t stand seeing children have to walk down the street when there is a perfectly good sidewalk that they could be safely walking on. In fact, this really goes for any person, no matter the age. Let’s face it, people don’t always pay as much attention when they drive like they should. In the mornings I often witness parents of the school children as some of the worst violators of our traffic laws.

I understand that not everyone has the means or ability to clear their sidewalks on a regular basis. This is where that being a good neighbor thing comes in. This also could be a good side job for some young entrepreneurs who are trying to earn some extra money. I also understand that there is the constant battle with the snowplow on the street that tends to fill back in the sidewalks. That is probably a topic for another day.

This winter, especially with all the extra snow we’ve already received, let’s help out our neighbors and do the right thing. Grab a snow shovel or fire up the snow blower and help someone out. If you are capable of taking care of your own place, then be a good steward and do what’s right.

Happy holidays, merry Christmas (the day after) and have a blessed New Year!

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