SOUTHINGTON — This winter the town will continue to be responsible for plowing snow and ice from all sidewalks deemed as “school access sidewalks” because a resolution hasn’t been reached yet.
Cheryl Lounsbury, chairwoman of the Ordinance Review Committee and town councilor, said the town has had to plow sidewalks designated as school access sidewalks since the 1960s. Since that time, she said many sidewalks aren’t used by students to walk to school and that the definition and the area of school access sidewalks had to be reviewed and reclassified. Lounsbury said many areas are no longer considered school access sidewalks such as those that lead to former schools.
“The Municipal Center used to be a school. It isn’t a school anymore so do we need to continue what we did in the past?” said Chris Palmieri a member of the ordinance committee and town councilor. “Those are easy answers but for others… maybe things changed and (it) isn’t utilized the way it used to be 10, 15, 20 years ago.”
The Ordinance Review Committee was working with the school administration and Board of Education to come up with a list of up-to-date school access sidewalks that would continue to be plowed. The rest that did not qualify would have to be maintained by homeowners.
Some residents were upset with the idea of shifting the responsibility from the town to the homeowners.
Many said the sidewalks had to be repaired first before they could maintain them in the winter.
“I’m not saying the town is doing it forever, but we did not get to it before the election for a final resolution,” Lounsbury said. “The ordinance committee is expected to meet after election because (we) finally got information from the Board of Education of current use of sidewalks. We need to bring that before the ordinance committee.”
Lounsbury didn’t know the exact number of sidewalks that were included but she said it was “under 20.”
Palmieri said they will take the time to look into all the sidewalks before making a final decision.
“We don’t want to make a knee-jerk reaction,” Palmieri said.
The discussion of plowing school access sidewalks came almost a year ago when a resident voiced their opinion on the matter saying the town could save money plowing if they looked into what constituted a school access. Lounsbury said they never considered it before and looked into the idea.
“I think ordinances should be looked at from time to time after a number of years,” said David Derynoski, a member of the Board of Education.
“I think that’s probably a wise idea. We may find that there are other sidewalks that need to be cleared and some that don’t need to be cleared.”