Fines Increased, Standardized for Snow-Covered Sidewalks

Holly Leske

Students living off campus should start layering up this winter and grabbing hold of their shovels and prepare to face the cold, because if they don’t, it’s going to cost them.

The Brookings City Council passed a revision to Ordinance 26-11 on Jan. 10 increasing fines previously ranging from $20 to $50 to a flat $60 for homeowners and renters who haven’t cleared their sidewalks within 48 hours of a snowfall. If the sidewalk is harder to clear because of frozen snow or ice, the city still requires some sort of supplement, whether sand or salt, to be sprinkled over their area of sidewalk.

Homeowners and renters are also expected to clear any snow pushed back onto sidewalks by circling snowplows within the time limit. After the allotted time, a patrol will fan out over the city in order to check sidewalks and issue citations.

Before passing the revision, the Brookings City Council discussed a variety of reasons to increase the fine, but targeted safety for pedestrians as their focus.

Some community members favored the change, including the Chair of Brookings Disability Committee, Dave Miller, who said, “It’s time to update the law so that there are consequences for (non-compliance).”

Miller added that increasing the fine would encourage homeowners to clear sidewalks faster, allowing safe passage for those with or without disabilities.

Miller also said the ordinance will provide, “public education for educating citizens for the snow removal,” and cited past confusion on the city’s policies for homeowners failing to clear their sidewalks in time.

Testimonies from Brookings’ community members highlighted some grey areas, which the ordinance failed to cover. They said cars often throw snow back onto the sidewalks when driving past because some sidewalks are right up against the street and have no place to store the snow.

Brookings resident, Robert Lee, summed up his fellow citizens complaints with, “I’m not sure one size fits all.”

Before, when warnings were routine, Brookings residents received at least one warning before they were fined, including Zach Penzone, a recent graduate from SDSU, who lives just south of George S. Mickelson Middle School in a rented four-bedroom home.

Penzone said the warning tickets were commonplace in his neighborhood, as both he and his roommates have seen many of their neighbors receiving tickets in the past. Being far from the campus, a main area for foot traffic, Penzone questioned the necessity of having sidewalks cleared immediately “I don’t think enough people take walks in the cold winter to justify a rise in the tickets,” said Penzone.

The council also dealt with the idea of getting warnings out to homeowners and home renters before the 48-hour period closes.

The members agreed that “everyone deserves a reasonable opportunity” and vowed to look into ways to getting snow removal notices out quicker before fines are issued, such as being able to contact property managers for rental areas via email, since the council is not bound to using the postal service.

The council agreed that, although the fine should encourage everyone to clean his or her sidewalks effectively and on time, the patrol’s best discretion would be used “We know how difficult it is to remove snow and ice,” said city manager, Jeff Weldon. “We’re certainly going to recognize that.”