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Council goes cold on sidewalk rules.

Byline: Bronislaus B. Kush

WORCESTER - The City Council may be praying for a long Indian summer and hoping the snow won't start seriously flying until winter has long settled in.

That's because councilors still don't know how to tweak the contentious city ordinance that requires residents to clear their sidewalks of snow and ice or face steep fines.

The council seemed ready this week to exempt property owners who have had trouble complying with the ordinance because of their difficulty in accessing sidewalks to the rear of their properties.

But the councilors backed off amending the regulation Tuesday night after learning that it would cost the city up to $630,000 each winter to hire private contractors to do the work.

The council then referred the issue back to its Public Works Committee for further study.

In 2008, the council - concerned with pedestrian safety, and particularly schoolchildren forced to walk in the streets because of clogged pathways - adopted an ordinance that fined property owners $75 for each day that their sidewalks were not cleared after a snowstorm.

Several residents around the city, however, complained that they were being unfairly burdened by the ordinance.

Much of the ire was generated from people who live on Meadow Lane, in the city's West Tatnuck neighborhood.

The rear of their properties abut Pleasant Street (Route 122), but a brook runs through the parcels, forcing them to take a circuitous route to get to the sidewalks.

To clear the snow, the residents have to go down the street, cross the brook at Prouty Lane, then walk up an embankment and over a guardrail.

District 3 Councilor Paul P. Clancy Jr., who heads the DPW committee, said he will schedule a hearing on the matter in September, when everybody's back from vacation.

Mr. Clancy said that it's important that the council be consistent with all residents, regarding the ordinance.

There was thought given to somehow eliminating the sidewalk entirely, with some councilors and Dorothy Hargrove, a Meadow Lane resident, saying that it's not safe to walk that area given the hilly geography and the speeding traffic.

Ms. Hargrove noted that there are two crosses near the sidewalk memorializing people killed in crashes.

Councilor-at-Large Frederick C. Rushton added that cars routinely "careen" down the hill from Paxton and he noted that he wouldn't let his kids walk in the area.

Mr. Rushton said the state should clear the walk, since it owns the nearby strip of land. City officials said the state refuses to do so.

Councilor-at-Large Konstantina B. Lukes said the city administration should investigate how many actually use the sidewalk.

Councilor-at-Large Michael J. Germain recommended that the council waive the ordinance for property owners on a case-by-case basis and urged it not to issue a broad "carte blanche" exemption.

District 2 Councilor Philip P. Palmieri reminded his colleagues that the problem is not restricted to Meadow Lane and noted that residents in neighborhoods that he represents have similar complaints.

The ordinance requires that snow be removed to a width of at least 4 feet after the snow stops falling.

Department of Public Works and Parks Commissioner Robert L. Moylan Jr. has estimated that the city would have been responsible for clearing as much as 30,000 feet of sidewalks after each storm, had the amendment to the ordinance been passed.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 23, 2011
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