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DATE: December 20, 2011 TO: Columbia City Council FROM: Bicycle & Pedestrian Commission RE: Sidewalk Snow Removal Issues (Tracker #3231)
OVERVIEW: At the December 17, 2007 City Council meeting, Council passed a motion by Ms. Hoppe directing the Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission (BPC) to examine the issues of snow removal from sidewalks, and other issues rendering sidewalks unusable. In April of 2008, the BPC sent a report to the Council proposing the development of a comprehensive plan to deal with the issue, including the following four elements (this report is attached as Exhibit A): 1. Educating citizens of their duty under city ordinance 2. Establishing priority routes, identify sidewalks where cleaning should have highest priority 3. Considering City maintenance of certain routes, particularly high priority routes or routes made impassable by road plows 4. Establishing a plan for enforcement The April, 2008 report also said the Commission felt the City needed to adopt a more comprehensive plan for sidewalk maintenance and creating an inventory of all sidewalks in the City, including information on the current state of repair and usability. The report ended with a request the Council direct the Commission to continue work on this issue. At its January 20, 2010 meeting, the BPC further discussed sidewalk snow removal issues and recommended the four elements included in the April 17, 2008 report be considered in addition to supporting a plan for enforcements and standards to assess compliance with City ordinance. A report was forwarded to the Council and considered at their February 1, 2010 meeting. The report asked the Council to direct staff to work with the BPC and the Disabilities Commission in an effort to move these ideas forward (this report is attached as Exhibit B). At the January 18, 2011 Council meeting, Councilwoman Hoppe made a motion directing the BPC to identify the public sidewalks needing to be cleared and to recommend ways to get those cleared in a timely manner. She noted she wanted them to look at the cost of hiring private companies to clear those key pedway areas. The motion unanimously approved, and the BPC began work on tracker #3231: Snow Removal Issues.
In 2011, the BPC conducted research and worked with staff on this issue. Research included looking at the ways in which other comparable cities addressed snow removal and enforcement. A notable peer example used by the Commission was Champaign, Illinois, as it is a city with a similar population and weather patterns. The City of Champaign designates a priority district for snow removal and enforcement, including billing non-compliant property owners when the City removes snow within the University District and Downtown (information for this program is attached as Exhibit C). A notable collaborative work product in 2011 (in support of Element #1, Educating citizens of their duty under the existing city ordinance), was the production of an educational flier (this flier is attached as Exhibit D). The BPC worked with the Office of Neighborhood Services and a volunteer intern to develop and disperse the flier to key groups within the community. Additionally, the City’s GIS Department provided the BPC with the initial draft of the digital sidewalk layer (in development) for use in the Commission’s analysis of the priority area. With regards to enforcement, a priority area, removal thresholds, and removal alternatives, the recommendations of the BPC are described below.
SIDEWALK SNOW REMOVAL PRIORITY AREA: The proposed snow removal priority area is comprised of arterial and collector streets within a defined area of the central city, bounded by I-70, Old Hwy. 63, and Stadium Boulevard, excluding college properties. Using the initial digital line work for the sidewalk inventory of the Columbia Metro, the initial inventory shows approximately 91 total lineal miles of sidewalks within the priority area, including approximately 36 lineal miles of existing sidewalks along arterial and collector streets. These sidewalks parallel streets maintained both by the City of Columbia and by MoDOT. Maps attached are as follows: -Priority Routes Highlighted shows the arterial and collector routes within the priority area for snow removal (Exhibit E). -Draft Existing Sidewalks in Priority Area shows the draft digital inventory of existing sidewalks within the area (Exhibit F). -Existing Sidewalks on Priority Routes highlights the existing sidewalks along the priority arterial and collector streets in blue, illustrating the gaps in the sidewalk system (Exhibit G).
SIDEWALKS TO BE INCLUDED: All sidewalks on arterial and collector streets except those already cleared by current commercial property owners
THRESHOLD FOR TRIGGERING SIDEWALK SNOW SHOVELING/TREATMENT: The threshold for triggering sidewalk snow shoveling is the accumulation of 2” or greater of snow, or significant ice or sleet accumulation. The Director of Public works will officially declare when requirements are in effect. Notice to be given on local radio and TV stations and the City website. Property owners would have 48 hours to comply. Snow removal will be required for all property owners in the priority area. Removal will also include the application of abrasives for ice, sleet or freezing rain. Sidewalks should be cleared to the sidewalk width, or 48”, whichever is less.
ENFORCEMENT: For non-compliance complaints, the City would notify the property owner. If an owner is non-responsive to the notification, the City would provide for removal and bill the property owner for the costs, plus an administrative fee. As not every property owner is able to remove snow on their own, the City may maintain a list of private snow removal contractors and volunteer organizations, such as the existing Boone County Council on Aging’s assistance for the elderly.
NON-CITY OPTIONS FOR SHOVELING: The Commission’s research included potential private snow removal organizations and estimated costs, as summarized below: A. Private Contractors: A number of companies in town will do snow shoveling. The Yellow Pages have a good number of listings, and there are additional companies not listed who will contract for the service. Many of the lawn care or landscaping companies will clear snow, as well as others without as much of their ‘regular’ work available during the winter. Cost: Hourly rates can vary from $50 to $110 per hour, depending on whether motorized equipment can be used versus shoveling by hand. A contract with the city could possibly be negotiated for less.
B. Job Point Youth Build students: This is a group of 15-25 students, aged 16-24, being trained by Job Point in construction, and working on their GEDs. They work on building or renovating central city houses, but have a hard time working on these projects in the coldest winter months. They have done some work for the City in the
past, including making repairs to older homes and working on landscaping at some of the fire stations. Their training facilities are on Wilkes and on Providence near Hickman High School, so they are close enough to reach key central areas for snow removal. Cost: The Youth Build program (called Columbia Builds Youth) is partially funded by a grand from MODOT. Students receive minimum wage for their work projects. Additional grants are applied for from time to time, so it is unknown to what extent they would seek City funds. Supplies: This group would need to be supplied with snow shovels.
C. Volunteer Groups: A program could be developed to be administered by the city Office of Neighborhood Services. Volunteer groups could be solicited in the media, and assigned an area for snow removal from the named street groups, based on how many people in the group and their ages. Groups invited to participate could include: -School clubs or teams -Church groups -Scout troops -Neighborhood associations -Non-school sports teams -Runners & cycling groups -Employee groups from supportive companies -Fraternal groups Cost: Record-keeping by the city of the volunteer groups and their assigned areas. PR Potential: High
RECOMENDATION: The Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission recommends the Council consider the above recommended priority area and pursue enforcement and alternatives to ensure sidewalks are properly cleared.