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More in city charged for snow removal

February 21, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

For those who complained about icy sidewalks in front of the former Washington Spy Restaurant, the third time was the charm.

City code enforcers sent a $140 bill this week to the owners of the building at 33 E. Antietam St. after a city contractor cleared snow and ice from sidewalks there Jan. 30, according to information provided by the City Code Compliance Office.

Councilman N. Linn Hendershot, who has championed the city's efforts to enforce snow removal for the sake of public safety, said he was pleased to hear that.

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Hendershot said the sidewalks in front of the former restaurant had been neglected, and he sees the ordinance as being designed to target those types of sidewalks.

"I have no compassion for those (types of) people," Hendershot said. "If they're gonna own property within the city limits of Hagerstown, they have an obligation to take care of them."

The Spy was among 12 properties to be cleared in late January, bringing the total number of properties to be cleared to 63. While the initial owners who had their properties cleared in December and mid-January were refunded a $100 administrative fee that was charged by the city, all of the owners have been charged between $73 and $190 for snow clearing.

The total amount billed by the contractor, Buildall Construction, is $7,087.

Barbara Joy-Myers, a Hagerstown landlord, was not singing praises for the snow-clearing efforts when she was reached Thursday. Myers, who lives on Virginia Avenue, owns another home on North Mulberry Street.

The city charged Joy-Myers $84 to clear snow from in front of the rental property. She said she wishes she had been warned.

"It's a bunch of bull," Joy-Myers said. She said the sidewalk in front of her North Mulberry Street property is between 15 feet and 20 feet long. "I don't care if it's 84 (dollars) or 184 (dollars) ... It's terrible."

Joy-Myers said the city's efforts also may have an unwelcome effect on city landlords.

"What's happening is they're running all the good landlords out of town," Joy-Myers said.

Other places where the contractor cleared snow most recently were a child-care center, several rental homes and two owner-occupied homes, according to state tax records.

While the city code orders owners to clear their walkways within four to 10 hours after a winter storm, officials have since relaxed their stance on the code and pledged to enforce it no earlier than 48 hours after a storm.

The city also can fine repeat violators $200, although no one has yet been fined.

After the city received complaints late last month about the fairness of its enforcement of the policy, officials also promised to clean the city's own sidewalks before it begins enforcing the code on private property owners.

For any future winter storms this season, the administrative fee will be reduced to $25. The City Council is expected to review the code later this year, and the City Engineer's office was reviewing a contract to lessen a $45 salt application fee, which some saw as excessive.

The numbers of owners who have been charged has decreased each time the city has enforced its snow removal ordinance. In December, 30 properties were cleared. In mid-January, 22 were cleared - one of which also had been cleared in December.

City spokeswoman Karen Giffin said she thought that showed the word was getting out about the city's efforts. Officials have said the ordinance needs to be enforced because of safety issues for pedestrians, including school-age children, senior citizens and the disabled.

"More people (are) aware of the code and the advertising that we've been doing, and the promotional efforts," Giffin said.

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