City hall update: Fine for unshoveled sidwalks?

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November 7, 2011
By: Nick Halter
Nick Halter
City considering $75 fine for un-shoveled sidewalks

On average, a property owner who failed to shovel snow from his or her sidewalk within a week of a snowfall last winter paid about $240 to have the city remove the snow.

Now, the city’s Department of Public Works is proposing a $75 administrative citation on top of any snow removal costs assessed to a property with un-shoveled sidewalks.

The proposal drew the ire of Council Member Elizabeth Glidden (Ward 8), who said the citation is punishing homeowners twice for one offense.  

Under current city policy, homeowners have 24 hours after a snowfall to shovel their sidewalks before the city will send them a letter asking them to remove the snow. Generally, after a week, city inspectors will return, and if the snow isn’t gone they’ll have a city crew do it for them and assess homeowners for the service.

It’s happened 225 times so far in 2011, totaling $54,000 in assessments that will show up on 2012 property tax statements. In 2010, the city handed out 488 assessments totaling $95,000.

If the city had been tacking on an additional $75 fine to those assessments in 2010, the citations would have added $36,600 in revenue.

Steven Kotke, director of Public Works, is proposing a few changes to the process. His staff outlined a plan to speed up the process. Instead of waiting seven days to return to the un-shoveled sidewalk, city inspectors will return in four days. Instead of sending city crews out to remove snow from sidewalks, the city will begin — with a pilot program this winter — contracting service out to a private provider.

“Ultimately, we want people to shovel their sidewalks, so that’s what this is about,” said Brette Hjelle, the Public Works interagency coordinator who presented the plan.

On Oct. 25, the Transportation and Public Works Committee forwarded the $75 administrative ticket plan to the full City Council without recommendation, asking staff to focus the use of the citation on chronic offenders.

The City Council was scheduled to vote on the citation at its Nov. 4 meeting, which is after The Journal went to press.

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Rybak nominates Florida official for top regulatory post

Mayor R.T. Rybak has found a replacement to fill the city’s opening for director of regulatory services, a post that opened up on July 1 after Rocco Forte resigned.

Rybak’s appointment is Gregory Stubbs.

Stubbs’s most recent job was director of growth and resource management for Vulusia County, Fla., where he managed permitting, licensing, planning and economic development for the county of 495,000.

“Greg Stubbs will bring a unique set of skills and experience to the city of Minneapolis, including a fresh perspective on how the interplay of regulation, planning and development can promote health, sustainability and economic vitality,” Rybak said in a press release.

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Council passes resolution supporting protesters

After some debate over whether the City Council should be weighing in on federal issues, nine members passed a resolution to support “serious reforms to the income tax, financial and electoral systems.”

Though the resolution, authored by Betsy Hodges (Ward 13), does not specifically name the OccupyMN protests that have been taking place across the street from City Hall, it does back up most of the OccupyMN concerns and its peaceful protests.

The resolution raises concerns over increasing Wall Street profits, the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, income inequality and unemployment.

Only Sandra Colvin Roy (Ward 12) and Lisa Goodman (Ward 7) voted against the resolution. Goodman said it was not the City Council’s job to be weighing in on Supreme Court decisions and federal income tax rates.

Reach Nick Halter at nhalter@mnpubs.com.