Residents reminded to shovel their sidewalks
Since last weekend, the City of Rhinelander Inspection Department has been inundated with complaints regarding icy and snow-covered sidewalks. The department is now reminding Rhinelander’s citizens that fines have and will continue to be levied to those that don’t follow the city’s ordinance regarding snow removal.
Rhinelander’s snow removal ordinance requires the sidewalks be cleared 24 hours after a snowfall. According to Rhinelander Fire Chief and Chief Inspection Officer Terry Williams, failure to do so after the 24-hour grace period expires will result in a penalty of at least $130.
“We didn’t receive many calls after the first snowfall a few weeks ago, but we’ve gotten a lot this week,” said Williams. “We don’t want to make people mad about this, but it is a safety concern.”
Following a complaint, an Inspection Department officer will go to the property to check the complaint’s validity. However, instead of issuing a warning letter to the property owner, Assistant Parks Director Jeremy Biolo will use Parks Department snow removal equipment to clear the sidewalk. The property owner will then receive a hefty bill in the mail of at least $130, depending on how much time Biolo must spend clearing snow at the property.
It won’t be easy to skirt around the fine, either. According to the ordinance, should the charge not be paid in a sufficient time frame, it will be added to the tax roll on the property, with an additional $13 administrative penalty.
“We realize that the charge is pretty steep, but we felt that the charge is justified given the time we take to take the complaint, investigate and the time Jeremy takes to clear the snow,” said Williams. “The ordinance says 24 hours, but we do work with people a lot and try to give them the benefit of the doubt, especially around the holidays.”
Williams knows that this particular ordinance hasn’t been accepted with open arms by many in the community, and he said he’s always ready to deal with any and all complaints. “People need to know that we aren’t doing this to pick on anyone or put anyone out,” said Williams. “We saw a problem that needed to be addressed, and this is the best way we could come up with to address it in the safest and most efficient manner possible.”
Williams pointed out that many of the past week’s complaints have centered on the Lincoln Street business district, where new sidewalks were just installed this fall. He said the sidewalks are already getting a lot of use, and he’s disappointed that pedestrians using the new walkway are already having to deal with snow concerns.
“Many Lincoln Street businesses have been great about getting out and clearing the snow in front of their businesses, but others have been pretty lax in doing it, too,” said Williams. “We are being patient because we know that the businesses out there aren’t used to dealing with sidewalks, but we have to keep people safe first and foremost.”
The ordinance is set to be revisited during the city’s Protection of Persons and Property Committee meeting on Monday, Nov. 28 at 5:30 p.m. Williams suspected that the committee would be looking for an update on how the ordinance, which was changed in early 2010, was being both enforced and accepted in the community.
“I can say that last year was the best year we ever had regarding the number of snow removal complaints we were getting,” said Williams. “People in Rhinelander really did a nice job following the ordinance. We know we’ll always have some complaints, but we were encouraged by what happened last year, and we hope it will continue.”
Editor’s note: To report a violation of the City of Rhinelander’s snow clearing ordinance, call the City Inspection Department at (715) 365-8606.