Feb. 25—Updated snow-removal regulations that Hazleton City Council adopted Tuesday are intended to crack down on people who throw snow onto city thoroughfares while maintaining existing regulations for clearing sidewalks, Mayor Jeff Cusat said.
Council approved final readings of a revised snow-removal ordinance that hikes penalties from $25 under current regulations to between $50 and $350 per violation for people who do not clear a path of at least 16 inches wide on sidewalks, corner curbs or ramps that lead to crosswalks within 24 hours after snow, hail, sleet or ice ceases to fall.
The ordinance also makes it unlawful to throw snow from sidewalks or driveways onto streets and alleys and bars people from throwing snow that is cleared from vehicles onto streets.
Another provision states that residents who remove snow from an on-street parking space do not have "exclusive use" of that space.
Although the updated regulations create a minimum width for clearing paths on sidewalks, Cusat said requirements for clearing sidewalks are not new — and are not intended to penalize elderly residents or people with disabilities.
"The thing that's concerning to us is the people that snow blow or plow excess snow or shovel it into the street," he said. "It can cause slick conditions after we already plowed. If you're 80 or 90, don't go shovel snow until you die."
The ordinance is intended to address unsafe conditions on sidewalks that could force pedestrians onto streets, Cusat said.
"I'm concerned for people and kids who are walking to school," he said. "It ultimately comes down to, if you don't want to shovel your snow and someone gets hurt, you are liable. If someone gets hit by a car because they are walking in the street, you have to live with it."
Residents who neglect to clear their sidewalks risk facing longer response times for emergency responders to get into their homes, he said.
City solicitor Sean Logsdon said he expects city officials to use discretion when enforcing the ordinance.
"If there's an older person who hires someone and the person doesn't do it (for them)," Logsdon said while providing an example. "If there's an older person who needs a few more days to shovel snow. But if you have an absentee landlord then there's something for you — you can get fined every day if your sidewalks are not cleaned."
The ordinance also holds property owners responsible for treating frozen sidewalks with sand, salt or other materials if ice, hail or sleet cannot be removed by shoveling.
It has a provision that allows the city to remove snow and bill a property owner for the cost of service, much like it does for cutting grass or high weeds.
After hearing the administration's explanation, Councilwoman Allison Barletta said she believes the regulations are necessary.
"Today, I saw three people throwing snow on the roads," she said.
Council voted 4-1 to approve the ordinance on second reading. President Jim Perry, Barletta and council members Tony Colombo and Lauren Sacco voted "yes." Councilman Jack Mundie voted "no."
Mundie, however, gave no explanation for changing his vote when the ordinance passed 5-0 on third reading.
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