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City sidewalks: Keep them clean and clear

New sidewalks along East Paperjack Drive in the city of New Richmond are some of the newest in the municipality. These new sidewalks must now be cleared by residents who haven't had sidewalks in front of their homes. (Photo by Raymond T. Rivard)

When Ol’ Man Winter blows through St. Croix County and the city of New Richmond, he usually leaves behind a mess that needs cleaning up — especially for those city residents with sidewalks running in front of their homes.

And if you don’t clean it up, you will most likely get a note from city officials telling you to do so.

If you don’t follow the city’s directions, it will cost $50 the first time and as much as $100 each subsequent time.

Mike Mroz, operations manager for the city of New Richmond, said keeping the sidewalks clear of snow and ice is more than just cosmetics — it’s a matter of public safety.

We all know that slipping and falling on a concrete sidewalk is not something anybody should have to experience.

So for city residents living along a portion of the 23 miles of sidewalks around the municipality, it’s important to make sure it’s clear at this time of year.

With road projects this past couple of years that have added sidewalks to the city’s landscape, the residents who might have new concrete pathways in front of their homes need to be sure to get into the habit of clearing them.

“We had new construction [of sidewalks] along East Paperjack Drive and East Hughes Street last summer, so clearing the ice and snow might be a new experience for the folks living along those routes,” Mroz said.

“After we’re done cleaning up streets, I will go out and about to tour the city to make note of any sidewalks not shoveled. I’ll give notice and give [the property owners] 24 hours to clear the sidewalk. After that 24 hours I’ll go back out and see if it’s done or not, and if it’s not done then I’ll send my guys out to take care of it. And then we do bill them $50 the first time and any subsequent time after that when it’s not cleared off we’ll bill them $100,” Mroz said.

There are no citations issued by police, Mroz said. The task of enforcing the city ordinance falls to the public works department.

“If [the resident is] gone, they should make arrangements with a company or a neighbor to make sure things are cleaned from the sidewalk,” Mroz said.

“Typically if they are going to be gone for three months or so — if they are snowbirds or something like that — they should hire a contractor or a high school kid to clean off their snow. Some could also use the option to contact the CIP [Challenge Incarceration Program at the St. Croix Correctional Center]. They have a program where the inmates go out and about to shovel sidewalks. But the thing with that is it’s on their own time. They are not typically out after a snowfall right away,” Mroz said.

With a couple of smaller snowfalls during December, Mroz said he’s seen great compliance among the city’s residents so far — but it’s still early in the season.

“For the most part people have been understanding that it takes time to get in the groove,” Mroz said about the task of removing snow and ice.

In addition to the new sidewalks needing clearing for residents, the city has also added more sidewalks to the areas it must also keep clear. Much of those new sidewalks are located adjacent to businesses that have been built on the south side of town.

“We had such a mild winter last year that it carried over all the salt from previous budget. It was such a mild winter last year that it has us ahead … with the salt pile and sand/salt mix pile. We kept what we had last year under a ‘tarped’ building so the sun stays off of it. It keeps really well and we can transfer it from season to season,” he said.

“We have two public works employees in charge of trails and sidewalks. Just like the residents, we had some added to our plate. The responsibility falls on the city in certain areas.

In addition to the sidewalks built around the new construction on the southeast corner of Highway 65 and East Richmond Way, the city also owns some empty lots in that area.

“We have to take care of sidewalks until they are sold and that all takes a little more time to get to everything,” Mroz said.

But if there’s one thing that Mroz and city officials need residents to understand is that they need to be patient when clearing their sidewalks. If they finish before the city has completed its plowing operations, there is the chance that driveways and sidewalks could be plowed in.

“People need to keep in mind when shoveling drive or sidewalk … that they should wait until the plow makes its last pass … they may start digging out a sidewalk and we may have not completed the road plowing. We do get some phone calls from residents who say they got plowed in. We just want them to know that they should wait until the street is plowed curb to curb. That will save some headaches.”

According to a city statement that was mailed in December to residents:

The City of New Richmond ordinance requires that property owners clear sidewalks after the commencement of a snowfall within 24 hours.

Reminder, when you shovel snow and clear ice:

Shovel the sidewalks on all sides of your property, the full width of the sidewalk down to the concrete.

Remove all ice from sidewalks. After the sidewalk is clear, sprinkling a little sand, salt, or ice melt can help prevent slipping on frosty sidewalks.

Pile snow onto your yard and boulevard. It’s against the law to shovel snow into streets and alleys.

If you have a corner property, clear curb cuts at corners and crosswalks.

Avoid a ticket

If the City of New Richmond gets a complaint or discovers that a sidewalk is not properly cleared, staff will inspect the sidewalk and give the property owner a chance to clear it. Property owners will be notified via a door hanger.

If the sidewalk has not been cleared upon re-inspection, crews will remove the snow and ice from the sidewalk and property owners will be billed for this service. Unpaid bills will be added to the owner’s property tax.

For more information about the city’s policies pertaining to the clearing of ice and snow or for general information, call Mike Mroz at 715-243-0450.