Town Council Looking at Ways to Improve Sidewalk Snow Removal

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Looking for ways to reduce the amount of un-shoveled sidewalks around town, on Tuesday night Town Council President Mark Sideris asked Council subcommittees to look at bolstering the current ordinance and consider a requirement for residential properties to shovel their sidewalks.

While concerned with the state of sidewalks around Watertown, Sideris commended the Department of Public Works for their work clearing snow from town streets.

“We have all been dealing, over the last couple weeks, with an unprecedented amount of snow,” Sideris said. “I want to thank the DPW for all the work keeping the roads open.”

The town has a requirement for owners of commercial buildings to clear snow from sidewalks around their property. Sideris said he has seen some sidewalks that have not shoveled snow from any of the recents storms, beginning with the blizzard.

He asked the Rules and Ordinances Committee to look at how the current requirement for snow removal on commercial properties is working, and look for ways that more people can be brought into compliance with the ordinance.

One of the problems, Sideris said, has been a lack of enforcement. Right now the Police Department is in charge of doing so.

To make sure they have the resources they need, Sideris asked for Town Manager Michael Driscoll to work with the Budget and Finance Committee to find funds required to pay for enforcement of the current snow ordinance and any additional requirements to clear snow from sidewalks.

The major addition could be the requirement for residential properties to shovel or clear snow from their sidewalks. Sideris asked the Public Works Committee to work with DPW Superintendent Gerald Mee to discuss a potential ordinance that would require snow to be removed from residential properties.

The Council approved all three motions unanimously.

This would not be the first time that Watertown has considered having a residential snow ordinance. It was discussed but failed to be passed in 2005, 2009 and 2011.

Problems with sidewalks during the recent series of storms has upset many residents who worry about the safety of school children, the elderly, disabled residents and those trying to walk around town.

Some surrounding communities, including Boston Belmont, Newton and Cambridge, require residents to remove snow from their sidewalks.

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