Berlin Tables Mandatory Snow Removal Proposal

BERLIN – A new ordinance specifically tasking Berliners to
remove snow from sidewalks was tabled this week after the Mayor and Council
brought up questions about the new requirements that could not immediately be

The Mayor and Council heard the second reading of the bill
at Monday’s meeting.

This is not a new requirement, said Berlin Administrative
Director Linda Bambary. The new ordinance simply specifies the rules for snow
removal, as opposed to sidewalk obstructions in general.

It also changes violations of the rule from a misdemeanor,
which would necessitate going to court, to a municipal infraction, essentially
a fine issued by the town.

The ordinance would oblige property owners to clear
sidewalks on their land within a certain time period. If the snow or ice is not
cleared within 24 hours, for residences, and either within six hours or by the
start of the next business day for commercial sites, the town will charge the owner
$100, under the tabled ordinance.

The property owner will incur a further $200 charge for
each subsequent day that the snow or ice remains in place.

If the snow is too hard to shovel, the ordinance requires
the property owner to scatter abrasive material, like sand, on the snow to
provide traction to walker.

Council members had several concerns and they particularly
questioned the removal of a paragraph included in the first reading of the
ordinance that gave the elderly an exemption from the sidewalk clearing

The paragraph provided a process for older and unwell
citizens to file with the town for an exemption for residential properties
only. If granted, the town would then clear the snow on those sites.

Bambary said that it would involve less work for the staff
if uncleared sidewalks were simply taken care of by the town, with the property
owner billed. The owner could then contact the town and ask for the cost to be
forgiven, in the case of age or infirmity. Generally, this process is the same
as the one used for residents who do not cut their grass as required in the
town code.

The council reached a consensus that the exemption
paragraph be replaced in the ordinance.

“There’s obviously no rush to get this done today or
tomorrow,” said Council member Paula Lynch.

Council member Ellen Lang made a motion to table the
matter. The council voted unanimously in favor.