OSWEGO, NY – At its meeting Tuesday night, the Common Council approved amendments to the Code of the city of Oswego Chapter 249, Vacant and Occupied Property Maintenance Ordinance, Section 249-9, Cleaning of public Sidewalks.
The vote was 5 – 1 – 1 with Councilor Shawn Walker voting no and Councilor Connie Cosemento was excused from the meeting.
Prior to the meeting, a half dozen residents spoke at a public hearing regarding the change and highlighted the pros and cons of trying to keep sidewalks cleared during an Oswego winter.
One of the changes is residents must clear snow from their sidewalks “by 7 p.m. of every day that any snow … may be upon same.” The old time was 10 a.m.
The previous ordinance said sidewalks must be cleared “from side to side.”
That’s now changed to “a path of at least 30 inches wide.”
Judy Coniski told the council about how hard it is for her to keep the sidewalk around her residence clear of snow.
“There have been times when we’ve had to hire someone to come and do it for us,” she said. “We have had to replace snowblowers every other year. It puts an awful lot of stress on us, as homeowners, to keep it maintained.”
Mike Goldych pointed out that people with sidewalks still have to shovel; those without sidewalks don’t have to. It doesn’t seem quite fair, he noted.
“Now, come on. Think about this. The city has a responsibility to treat everyone equally,” he said.
Steve Poydock, a West Fifth Street resident, served on the committee that examined possible changes to the ordinance, said he feels it is his civic responsibility to clean his sidewalk.
There are many residents who comply with the ordinance, but the DPW snowplow crews deposit more snow (from the roadways) back on the sidewalks when they plow, he said.
The changes in the ordinance should make it easier for those people to comply, he explained.
“There could be several times during the day where the sidewalks need to be cleared of snow,” he said. “The amendment gives them more time.”
There are some people who just don’t shovel their sidewalks, Nancy Krauss pointed out.
“It’s not fair. It’s not safe,” she told the council.
If people get money from a property, they should have to take care of it, she said referring to landlords (and businesses) who don’t ensure the sidewalks around their properties are cleared.
“It should be addressed. But, unless somebody complains, it’s not addressed,” she said.
Judi Kenefic echoed those sentiments.
She said she tries to keep the sidewalk at her home cleared because it is used by children going to school. But the sidewalk is adjacent to the road and the plows continue to push snow back on it, she explained.
“When a plow goes by, everything that is in the road is put in the sidewalk,” she said. “There is no snowblower made on earth that can keep it clear; the snow is too heavy and there is so much ice. I’m very concerned about the kids. I can’t keep it clear for the kids; the plow keeps putting everything in the road back on the sidewalk. So, I’d like to know what am I supposed to do?”
Alderman Ron Kaplewicz spearheaded the committee that proposed the revisions to the ordinance.
He agreed that it has been a hardship, especially for people like the residents who live in areas such as parts of West Fifth Street near Oswego Middle School, where the sidewalks abut the street and frequent snowplowing activity by the city makes it nearly impossible to keep the sidewalks clear of snow and slush.
The amendments aren’t a perfect solution, but are a step in the right direction, he added.
“Right or wrong, either way, we needed to take some action,” he said.
“There is no exemption on cutting your grass,” Walker said referring to the part of the ordinance that deals with maintaining properties in the summer. “I don’t agree with this and I’m not going to support this.”
“There are going to be places where things are going to be awkward. We’re going to have to figure some things out,” Kaplewicz said. “I’m not sure there is any one perfect answer for any one particular community. No matter what we do, we’re going to have some concerns somehow some way.”
When the vote was taken and City Clerk Barb Sugar announced the resolution had passed, the large number of supporters in the audience applauded.
In the event of a snow emergency being declared, the ordinance will be suspended until such time that the snow emergency is declared ended.
Code enforcement is working on an educational piece to inform the residents about the ordinance. They are also attempting to develop a list of groups and organizations that are available to help those in need with snow removal.