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Janesville City Council looks at toughening snow emergency penalties

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GINA R. HEINE
March 15, 2011
— Several Janesville City Council members on Monday voiced support for more aggressive penalties for vehicle owners who park on streets during snow emergencies and asked city staff to review policies on towing vehicles.

Both actions were brought up during the council's discussion of policy changes implemented this winter to address unshoveled private sidewalks. Council members generally agreed the changes worked well, but some members would like citations issued for repeat offenders.


The council took no action but directed city staff to look at increasing fines for vehicles parked on streets during snow emergencies and issuing citations to repeat offenders for unshoveled sidewalks.


Councilman Tom McDonald requested the city review its towing policy for vehicles that remain on streets during a snow emergency. Rather than issue a $20 or $50 fine, he said he would like to see cars towed to an appropriate parking lot so streets can be cleared.


"I'm not sure I'm in favor of that," Councilman Yuri Rashkin said, noting he returned home in the middle of a snowstorm and had to leave his car on the street.


"I felt terrible about it, but it was just beyond what the car could do. I think we need to have a little more understanding," he said.


Rashkin's comments later elicited a response from Councilman Bill Truman: "It's called a snow shovel."


The city has the ordinance so plow drivers can remove snow easier from the streets, Truman said.


McDonald said he liked that the city was charging only for costs to clear sidewalks and not enacting an additional fine. Other council members agreed, and a sliding-scale citation was suggested for property owners who repeatedly do not clear sidewalks.


The city received 318 total complaints for unshoveled sidewalks, said city Operations Director John Whitcomb. Of those, 57 required clearing by a city crew or contractor on multiple occasions, he said.


Two council members, Frank Perrotto and Truman, had asked that the council review more aggressive policies.


The city responds to unshoveled walks on a complaint basis. Then, an employee inspects the address and also reviews other nearby properties for compliance.


A notice is left at the unshoveled property, directing the owner to correct the violation within 24 hours. Direct contact with the property owner also is attempted.


After 24 hours, a city crew or a private contractor hired by the city clears the sidewalk.


The minimum bill to the property owner is $127.



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