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City will reimburse some of snow costs

February 11, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said Tuesday the city will partially reimburse property owners charged in December and January for snow removal under a city ordinance.

Zimmerman also detailed more changes in the way the city's snow removal ordinance will be applied in the future.

"We still think it's a good, sound program," Zimmerman said of the snow removal policy during Tuesday's mayor and city council work session. "We're just trying to fine tune it."

Zimmerman said the city will refund a $100 administrative fee to the property owners billed before the city changed policies regarding the ordinance last week. Those owners were charged between $178 and $285, according to information provided by the city.

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Zimmerman said the city will not reimburse labor fees and a $45 salt application fee that was charged to each property owner by the contractor.

Zimmerman said the city will lower to $25 the administrative fee levied against property owners who are charged for snow removal.

He said the city is renegotiating the contract to include a sliding scale for the salt application fee, which would be based on the size of the property instead of a flat $45 fee.

Zimmerman said the fee changes will be in effect through the rest of this winter. The council will review the ordinance again before next winter, he said.

The mayor and some council members supported the changes, although others questioned the moves.

After the work session, Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh said she was worried that more property owners would choose to not shovel their sidewalks in light of the smaller fees.

"I will have to see how it works," Nigh said.

During the work session, Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire said he did not agree with refunding the fees to everyone. Earlier Tuesday, he said some people should be fined.

He said reports in The Herald-Mail of 86-year-old Mary Jane Zook, who was charged in for snow removal in December, represent the type of case for which there's a "valid reason" to refund.

But "there are individual property owners out there ... that have no interest in compliance," who do not deserve refunds, Aleshire said.

Mayor William M. Breichner, and council members Lewis C. Metzner, N. Linn Hendershot and Carol N. Moller said they were in support of Tuesday night's proposals.

Moller, after the meeting, said she thought the $100 fee "was excessive." On the refund and new fees, she said, "I think that's fair. I really would like to see that."

Tuesday was the second time officials have announced changes in the way officials will enforce the snow removal ordinance, which requires property owners to remove snow from public sidewalks on their property within four to 10 hours after a winter storm, depending on where a property is located.

After complaints about the fairness of the city's enforcement of the code, administrators last week instituted new rules.

Under the changes, all city sidewalks would be cleared before private property owners are charged for snow removal; property owners would be given a time frame in which a city contractor would remove snow; and the city would wait 48 hours before enforcing the ordinance.

According to information provided by city officials in January, owners of 51 properties were billed for snow removal because they were in violation of the city's ordinance.

City officials have said snow was removed from other properties since information last was released. Officials said they would provide that list today.

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