OWATONNA – Now that winter is officially here with no turning back, the Owatonna City Council has taken the first steps into making public sidewalks safe for pedestrians as they maneuver through icy conditions.
During the regular city council meeting on Tuesday evening, council members unanimously approved the first reading of an amendment to an ordinance that requires snow removal from public sidewalks. The amendment will add a civil penalty for violations. The current ordinance can be found in Chapter 94 entitled “Streets and Sidewalks” of Title IX of the 2015 Ordinance Code of the City of Owatonna under §90.15(B).
The proposed amendment will require that snow on public sidewalks – whether in a commercial or residential district – be removed within 24 hours after a snowfall. The ordinance further provides that an administrative citation may be issued to any person in violation of the ordinance and that an administrative civil fine may be imposed.
“The final will be $40 for the first offense, $60 for the second, and $80 after that,” said Kyle Skov, the director of the Owatonna public works department and city engineer. “That will be in addition to the actual cost of removing the snow by the City.”
As the ordinance currently stands, it is required that snow be removed from sidewalks within 24 hours after its deposit, but provides that in residential districts it must be removed within 48 hours. The amendment covers all districts with one time-limit for snow removal. The current ordinance does not provide an administrative citation, which is similar to a parking ticket, for those in violation of the ordinance nor does it list an administrative civil fine.
The amendment proposal described that the new ordinance will help enforce the ordinance as well as lessen the cost incurred by the City and the public at large in hiring contractors to remove the snow.
The second reading will take place during the city council’s regular meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 17, at 7 p.m. If approved by the council, the ordinance will go into effect upon publication.
Also during this week’s city council meeting, the council members approved an update to the Snow and Ice Control Policy. The policy was most recently updated in 2010. Though there was a considerable amount of revision proposed, the highlights include a plow zone map update, the deletion of the heavy snow removal plan, and a revision to the policy regarding plows coming in contact with mailboxes.
“When a plow makes physical contact with a mailbox, the city will either replace it with a breakaway-type post or provide a one-time $75 reimbursement,” Skov explained. “The reimbursement will only be one per property, so if the property switches ownership that still counts as the one time.”
Skov said that if a snowplow happens to hit a mailbox again after a reimbursement has been issued that they would then replace the mailbox with the breakaway option. The breakaway-type post will meet the recommendations of the United States Postal Service, which states that wooden mailbox supports no larger than four inches by four inches, or a two-inch diameter standard steel or aluminum pipe, buried no more than 24 inches, should safely break away if struck by a vehicle.