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Area snow-removal laws vary

February 07, 2004|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

wandaw@herald-mail.com

With the recent series of winter storms, residents in the Tri-State area have had plenty of chances to comply with snow-removal policies in their municipalities.

City of Hagerstown officials changed the way they are enforcing the city's snow removal policy this week after residents questioned the fairness of fees charged to property owners. Some property owners have been charged more than $200 for a city contractor to remove snow and ice from public sidewalks on their property.

Overall, officials in other Tri-State municipalities said penalties have not been excessive and said they are pleased with residents' efforts to comply with snow-removal ordinances.

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In Martinsburg, W.Va., city residents must have sidewalks cleaned and passable within 12 hours after snow has stopped, code enforcement official John Whitacre said.

"Failure to clear snow is considered a public nuisance and the penalty can be up to $500 a day, 30 days in jail or both," said Whitacre, who said the city works with the public, especially older residents.

Warning notices are taped to doors and Whitacre takes a photograph of the snow-filled sidewalk while he's at the property and "people usually get the message and comply," he said.

Residents in Mercersburg, Pa., also have 12 hours to clear their sidewalks, with fines starting at $10 plus court costs. Default of payment can result in up to five days in jail.

In Funkstown, residents have 10 hours to remove snow and fines can vary, but not exceed $100. Residents in Boonsboro must remove snow from sidewalks within 10 hours, but there is no fine system in place, Town Manager John Kendall said.

Residents in Hancock, Smithsburg, Chambersburg, Pa., and Frederick County, Md., have 24 hours to clear walkways, with fines ranging to $100 or more.

Residents in Clear Spring and Williamsport also are required to follow ordinances pertaining to the removal of snow from sidewalks. The ordinances say "if, after due notice, the owner fails to comply with the order within a reasonable time, the town may do the work." Expenses in both towns could be recovered through a lien on the property, according to the ordinances.

In Shippensburg, Pa., residents have 12 hours after the snow stops to remove snow and fines can range up to $300, Cumberland County District Justice Harold Bender said. But unlike Martinsburg, they won't receive a warning following a storm.

"In the fall, everybody received a letter from the borough to remove snow and ice within that period of time," Bender said.

Bender said enforcement has gone well with the exception of some rental tenants who often are slower to respond and more likely to be fined for not removing snow from their sidewalks.

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