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Proposed city nuisance ordinance would require residents to keep sidewalks clear

DETROIT LAKES - While the cleaning of sidewalks will be discussed further at next month's Detroit Lakes public works and city council meetings, there will likely be a nuisance ordinance going into effect for the next winter season.

Earlier this winter, the issue was brought to light when postal employees refused to deliver mail to any residences where sidewalks were not shoveled, citing possible injuries as the reason.

Then it became a question of whether or not the city should plow the sidewalks at all or leave it up to residents, who would be fined if the task was not completed in a timely manner.

City staff wrote up an amendment pertaining to the nuisance ordinance, adding that sidewalks not cleaned within 24 hours of a snowfall could be deemed a nuisance and therefore property owners would be charged to have the city come clean it.

With other nuisance reports, which have to be made by citizens, the process of contacting the person and having them respond could take up to 2-4 weeks, defeating the purpose. Public Works Director Brad Green said it's not feasible for the city to get to a property to clear it in 24 hours anyway. The city already plows 25 miles of public sidewalk.

City Administrator Bob Louiseau said he has received six complaints since the topic has been brought up. All complaints were from elderly, single women who wouldn't be able to shovel or pay the fees.

Green said the ordinance would state that sidewalks need to be cleaned as close to the sidewalk as the city does with its Bobcat.

The issue of someone being out of town for a weekend or a week on vacation also puts a wrench in the ordinance.

The public works committee discussed changing the 24-hour limit to 72 hours, and if someone is on vacation, the city would take that into consideration. Obviously the amount of snow build-up under the fresh snow would indicate if the person is on vacation or perpetually doesn't shovel the walk.

Although the limit for residential areas would be changed to 72 hours, the commercial district would remain at 24 hours' notice to remove the snow.

Regardless of what the city decides, getting to mailboxes may still be an issue for postal carriers.

"The post office is still going to have problems," Mayor Larry Buboltz said, pointing out the city can only control the public sidewalks, not the private property leading up to the house.

The issue will be discussed again next month at the public works committee.