MERIDEN — Those who’ve struggled to keep their sidewalks clear of snow this winter may find solace in that the city of Meriden was issued multiple citations by a Meriden police officer for failing to clear city-owned sidewalks in a timely manner.
City Manager Lawrence J. Kendzior confirmed Wednesday the city was issued “a few” citations by an officer after a recent storm. City code requires property owners to remove snow from sidewalks within 12 hours after sunrise. Kendzior did not disclose the locations that prompted the citations or the exact fine amount, but said a typical citation is $100 per day.
The citation was “a mistake on the officer’s part,” Kendzior said, adding that instead of issuing a citation, the officer should have called the appropriate city department so that the sidewalks could be cleared.
“He’s been told what the better process is,” Kendzior said.
Police Lt. Sal Nesci, police spokesman, referred comments to Kendzior.
There is “no point” to the citations, Kendzior said, because the city doesn’t intend to pay them.
“We’re not going to write a check in order to cash a check,” he said.
Public Works is responsible for clearing the city’s roads while Parks and Recreation handles sidewalks along city property, Public Works Director Bob Bass said. Mark Zebora, director of Parks and Recreation, was unavailable for comment Wednesday. Kendzior said the city used to employ two workers in Parks and Recreation who were assigned to keep downtown city-owned property clear of debris and snow. One of the positions was eliminated, so it takes longer for the department to respond after snowstorms, he said.
Bass said one of his goals over the next year is to “go through all city codes and look at what needs to be modified” in terms of the snow removal ordinance.
“There are certainly some holes in the ordinances,” he said. “But I don’t know where I’m going with this yet.”
Surrounding communities might give the city a better idea of how to handle sidewalk snow removal, Bass said.
“Maybe 12 hours is too little, but 48 hours might be too much,” he said, explaining that a happy medium needs to be found.
Meriden, Wallingford, Southington and Cheshire all have ordinances that specify how long residents have to clear their sidewalks. Each municipality also has an ordinance barring residents from placing snow back in the road after they are cleared.
Wallingford residents have 18 hours after the end of a storm to clear their sidewalks. Fines are $25 per day for noncompliance. The town’s ordinance committee is holding a meeting today to discuss potentially raising fines to $50 per day, according to Town Councilor Craig Fishbein, the committee’s chairman. The committee will also discuss if an ordinance should be established that requires residents to repay Public Works the cost of clearing snow placed in the road.
“I understand it’s an issue and the police have been called,” Town Council Chairman Vincent Cervoni said. “I’m interested in seeing the proposals.”
Town Councilor John Sullivan, vice chairman of the ordinance committee, said he does not support raising fines.
“I’m not sure greater fines are a solution,” he said. “Our overall goal is to get people to clear walks in a timely fashion, so we just may need to create a greater awareness of the rules.”
Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said he also doesn’t think fines are necessary, and that “the greater issue is making people aware of the ordinance.”
Southington residents can be fined $75 per day if they don’t clear their sidewalks within 12 hours, Town Manager Garry Brumback said. The town isn’t looking to make any changes to its ordinance, he said.
“We’re pretty happy with the standards we’ve got right now,” Brumback said. But after a difficult winter, the town will look to publicly define the ordinance more often “because there’s been a little confusion,” he said. Town officials will look to explain the ordinance during public meetings, and it will be more prominently displayed on the town’s website, Brumback said.
Fines are a last resort, he said. “Our goal is voluntary compliance.”
Cheshire officials will be reassessing their ordinance over the next year, Town Manager Michael Milone said. Residents there must clear their sidewalks within 24 hours.
“This year, we had to actually go out and shovel more private sidewalks than we ever have in the past,” Milone said, “especially in the retail corridor.”
“Obviously we have a problem,” he said.
Residents and business owners have been fined this winter for noncompliance with the ordinance, he said. There is no set fine, but the town charges for clearing private sidewalks based on man hours, regular hourly rates and equipment rental, Milone said. The town also charges if it must clear snow placed in the road by residents.