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Snow removal heaps on complaints

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news Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

FARGO - Piles of snow on boulevards, rutted ice on side streets, ice and snow-covered sidewalks.

It's been a winter of frustration. Just ask Karen Friese.

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The home day care provider says the sidewalks and streets in north Fargo's Golden Ridge neighborhood are an icy, dangerous mess.

After her 13-year-old daughter recently separated a shoulder and hurt an elbow when she fell on a neighbor's icy sidewalk, she said she's even contemplating suing the city.

"This is a 13-year-old child. She shouldn't have to walk in the street to get to and from her bus stop," Friese said.

She's not alone in her frustration.

Homeowners and businesses throughout Fargo have complained about high snowbanks, snow-narrowed streets, icy ruts and sidewalks that are like winter obstacle courses, said Operations Manager Al Weigel.

Similar issues are being seen in Moorhead, though Public Works Director Chad Martin said the recent respite in snow is helping his crews clean up in residential areas.

"I think, this year, we had such a lot of snow in the beginning," Weigel said, which makes it tough to find places to put it.

The downtown area, cul de sacs, and arterial streets have been cleared, he said. Now residential areas are being tackled.

But moving snow is a job where no good deed goes unpunished, Weigel said. As city workers clear streets curb to curb, snowbanks grow higher and the excess fills in sidewalks or buries fire hydrants.

"We get as many complaints for widening as not widening," Weigel said. "It's a really touchy situation."

Weigel said drivers will just have to "take it easy" in residential areas and drive for the conditions.

Martin said he's caught in the same bind as Weigel when it comes to clearing snow and ice from residential streets. But the break from heavy snow and cold is allowing Moorhead crews the time to move snow out of residential areas before winter's next blast comes.

"They're doing some hauling in the residential areas, which we haven't done in the past ... not for quite some time, years and years, since 1997," Martin said."

Icy sidewalks are policed on a complaint basis.

Anita Burnside, who investigates sidewalk complaints on Fargo's south side, said she and a north Fargo inspector have inspected 500 to 600 complaints for icy or snowy walks this year. About 50 property owners have failed to clear their walks and ended up having them done by city crews, she said. The minimum charge is $75.

She warned property owners that they, not the city, are liable if someone falls and hurts themselves on a snow- or ice-covered sidewalk on their property.

Mary Schmitt handles sidewalk snow complaints and dispatches inspectors in Moorhead. She said complaints averaged six a day at the end of December and in early January. This week, she's had two complaints.

Schmitt said if the homeowner or renter won't clear their walk, the city will hire a crew to do it. The homeowner or renter is charged the cost of the service and a $100 administrative fee.

For street and sidewalk complaints, Weigel said Fargo residents can call the street department office at (701) 241-1453. Complaints about snow on sidewalks at specific homes or businesses can also be e-mailed to snow@cityoffargo.com.

In Moorhead, sidewalk complaints can be registered by calling (218) 299-5434, and street complaints at (218) 299-5422.

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