Letter - Letter carriers: public needs to keep DL sidewalks clean
DETROIT LAKES - The Detroit Lakes City Letter Carriers Union would like to respond to some issues brought up in an article dated March 12, about the proposed city ordinance on removing snow from the public sidewalks in residential areas.
The first and biggest issue is that these are public sidewalks.
The city council and public works people seem to be implying that letter carriers are the only ones on the sidewalks in the winter. We see others out on our routes every day (although they sometimes have to resort to walking on the streets because of the sidewalk conditions). Many kids walk to school, people walk dogs, and people walk to their jobs to save gas and get exercise.
We were also under the impression that all public places are to be handicap accessible. That doesn't mean only in the summer months, does it? We see many people in their motorized scooters resorting to the streets. That is very dangerous for them!
We think the city needs to write and enforce an ordinance that is clear and concise so there are no misunderstandings.
What does "as close to the sidewalk as the city does with its Bobcat" mean? That Bobcat gets up to the cement in some places and leaves up to a couple inches in others. If you're shoveling, it's just as easy to go all the way to the cement, and then there wont be any disputes on the depth of the snow left to be packed down and turned to ice with the spring thaws. The sidewalks will always be safer if people shovel within 24 hours verses 72 hours. There will be a lot less snow packed down to turn to ice.
In all the towns we've lived in, there is not another city that clears residential public sidewalks. Has anyone from the board or street department checked the ordinances of other cities? They could get some ideas from them. We have Fargo's if they'd like to look at it, and we will gladly get others' for them.
As far as letting people not shovel because they're on vacation, is somebody really going to go out and inspect the snow build up? These people still pay for their heat to keep their pipes from freezing and they have people take care of their pets or kids, etc... It wouldn't be impossible for them to make an arrangement for somebody to take care of the responsibility of clearing their sidewalk.
We can empathize with elderly people who say they can't shovel and can't afford to pay somebody to shovel, but it's hard to believe that in a community like ours, a friend or neighbor wouldn't help out someone in need. We see a lot of chivalry out there already.
The most important point for the board members to consider should be safety and cost. To our knowledge, the board has not been informed of the cost of equipment and man-hours it takes to perform this courtesy.
It wouldn't cost anything if they parked the Bobcat and charged people what it costs the city to have somebody shovel the snow out correctly. This could save the city from the repercussions of a mega lawsuit due to their contribution to a dangerous condition that resulted in permanent damage to somebody.
All in all, it seems pretty simple. Do what all other cities do. Write up a good, clear ordinance that puts the responsibility of snow removal where it belongs -- with the property owners. This will not only save the city money, but will also create a safer, more handicap friendly community for all.
We would also like to take this opportunity to thank the many people in town who do such a great job of keeping their (and their neighbors') properties clean and safe already.
Here's to many safe winters in our beautiful city. -- Brenda Ahlts, on behalf of the Detroit Lakes Letter Carriers Union