Lack of snow removal enforcement draws ire

By ANDY LINDBERG/Montana State News

Andrew Thorson leaves his house on a quiet and cold January morning. On his way to work, he passes by dozens of homes in Bozeman’s historic Bonton district, many with icy and unkept sidewalks, a trend that has many residents asking questions including, what are the repercussions of leaving snow on public pedestrian ways?

People around the community are looking for answers and prodding city officials to keep a closer eye on enforcing the city’s somewhat lenient snow removal code.

Local news source KBZK television reported the city has already received about 1,000 complaints from angry residents regarding snow obstructed sidewalks. “And the season isn’t over,” says Thorson, a resident of Bozeman’s Bonton district.

“It’s become a real problem, not just for us in this neighborhood, but for those who pass through on their way to work or school,” said Thorson.

Each year, Montana’s winters present new challenges for its residents, and this year is no exception, which is why some community members are taking their own steps to crack down on snow removal violations.

“Some of the sidewalks around my neighborhood are awful, I don’t feel safe walking my dog, or letting my kids walk to school… something needs to be done,” says Carla Debuis, a South Willson Avenue resident and mother of four.

Debuis’ own story serves as a reminder to others in her community that sidewalks can be dangerous during the winter months. Two years ago on a brisk December morning, Debuis slipped on an unshoveled and icy sidewalk while walking her daughter to Hawthorne Elementary. The fall left Debuis with injuries that immobilized her for months.

Now, Debuis is pushing for stricter enforcement of Bozeman’s snow removal ordinance, something she is calling more than a code, but a safety precaution. Concerns about elderly and disabled individuals in neighborhoods have also been raised.

Despite voluminous complaints throughout the city, officials are ensuring many complaining residents that they are doing all they can to enforce the code. According to Bozeman Municipal code 12.24.020, the owner of a residential property has 24 hours to remove snow from their sidewalk after any significant accumulation. Significant snow accumulation can be anywhere from six inches up to a couple feet. Failure to remove snow after an additional 24 hours period will result in a penalty fee of up to $100, in addition to any fee associated with removal.

Bozeman residents have voiced their concern about these dangerous pedestrian ways in the past, “every year we see the same houses with unshoveled sidewalks,” says Debuis.

Debuis and Thorson agree, they want the city to act on properties that have neglected to comply with the snow removal ordinance. Thorson even suggested the city might take another look at the ordinance, and hopes the city will consider revisions to accommodate elderly and disabled people. Until then, Debuis warns residents to be careful while walking, especially at night when ice may be less visible.

– Edited by Eric Joondeph

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