Tahlequah Daily Press

January 2, 2014

Homeowners responsible for keeping sidewalks clear

By SEAN ROWLEY
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Tahlequah may not lie in a cold weather climate, but it does get its share of ice, sleet and snow in a typical year, which creates a property care issue - the clearing of sidewalks.

During the most recent spate of wintry weather in Tahlequah in early December, city officials said the responsibility of clearing sidewalks after a snow or ice event rests with property owners.

In the wake of the snowfall, a few city residents suggested that city crews clear their sidewalks.

Kevin Smith, assistant city administrator, said that property owners are responsible for clearing snow and ice from any sidewalks that cross their property.

A city ordinance reads: “it shall be the duty of every person, firm or corporation owning property in this city to keep the sidewalk adjoining his lot or lots in repair and in a safe condition for the public use and travel and to not permit or suffer the same to become broken, unsafe or out of repair.”

While the city’s position on sidewalk maintenance is clear, some residents have expressed concern about situations involving homeowners who are elderly or have physical limitations. In the warm climate of northeast Oklahoma, there are few services available for clearing snow and ice on residential properties.

Shaun Shepherd, owner of One Degree Landscaping, said he deals mostly with commercial clients, and uses heavy equipment.

“We clear parking lots and sidewalks at businesses,” Shepherd said.

“When snow gets to two inches, that is when we start clearing. Obviously, we can’t push snow when there are 50 cars in it, so we do most of our work at night even if it is snowing.  We start at 5 or 6 in the evening and may go to 7 the next morning. We may clear a lot, go clear another, then come back to clear the first again.”

Shepherd invited those unable to clear their sidewalks to call One Degree, but said his regular business clientele must receive priority.

“It might be a case of us squeezing in a residence here or there,” he said. “However, people are certainly welcome to call and ask for an estimate.”

Those unable to clear their own walks can also make arrangements with neighbors or a local church - and pay the labor if able.

“Shoveling sidewalks - honestly, it’s miserable,” Shepherd said.

“It is brutal work in freezing temperatures. I’m glad I do most of my work in a heated cab.”

The Tahlequah sidewalk ordinance is not unusual. In colder climates where snow is more persistent, many cities require homeowners and businesses to keep their walks clear.

Northern cities also enforce ordinances much more diligently.

New Yorkers have four hours to clear their walkways if it snows during business hours. Chicago homeowners risk a $50 fine if walkways aren’t cleared within three hours. Ann Arbor, Mich., fines violators $1,000.

Sidewalk clearing tips one might hear from Northerners include:

• Don’t wait until the snowfall ends to shovel. It is easier to remove light fall two or three times than all of it at once - especially if the precipitation is compacted by foot traffic.

• Use ice melt. Some suggest rock salt, some calcium chloride, some potassium chloride, some a combination. Choose whichever seems most effective for the climate. Some cities discourage use of rock salt, citing potential harm to plants and trees.

“Keep some ice-melt on standby,” he said.

“Put it down just as the snow or ice is starting to stick and keep applying it. You can hear that stuff reacting - the ice cracking. It makes it easier to clear.”

• Sand, while it possesses some ice-melt capacity, is best used to provide traction on snow or soft ice. It is less effective on hard ice.

srowley@tahlequahdailypress.com