Council Denies Request To Waive Fees For Not Clearing Snow From Sidewalk

OSWEGO, NY – At its meeting Monday night, the Common Council denied waiving the $150 administrative fee regarding snow removal from property at 498 – 500 W. First St.

Jeff Carson, owner of the Car Mart, was fined $250 by the Code Enforcement Office for failing to clear snow out of the sidewalk in front of his West First Street business.

At last week’s Administrative Services Committee meeting, Carson requested the fees be waived and points be eliminated. He claimed he didn’t receive proper notice from the Code Enforcement Office.

Lee Walker expresses his frustration with the snow removal ordinance at Monday night's council meeting.
Lee Walker expresses his frustration with the snow removal ordinance at Monday night's council meeting.

Notification was mailed to the address listed for Carson on the Oswego County Real Property website, according to the director of code enforcement. Carson, however, claims he didn’t receive the notification because his address wasn’t changed on the website when 911 changed addresses for many county residents.

Last week Councilor Connie Cosemento proposed waiving the fee, but not the points assessed against the property under the nuisance abatement ordinance.

However, on Monday night she pointed out that there is no mechanism in the City Charter that allows for the council to waive the fee; and she withdrew her support of waiving the fee.

She added that the post office told her the addresses were changed about 9 – 10 years ago.

Council Vice President Shawn Walker agreed.

“I believe this would set a bad precedence. If we keep going like this, then everybody can come back at us,” he said.

The council defeated the resolution 6-1 with Council President Ron Kaplewicz casting the lone vote in favor of waiving the fee.

He said he believes the fee should be waived, “but the points are appropriate. Bottom line is the sidewalk should have been shoveled.”

Councilors continued discussion regarding a possible grievance board that would address such issues.

“From what I understand, Fulton’s had one for a while for their water bills and stuff,” Mayor Randy Bateman noted. “A lot of things aren’t cut and dry. So the (Oswego) board would have to establish some type of criteria to go by, what is eligible to be grieved.”

This winter has stretched over a long period of time, Cosemento noted. The snow just keeps piling up, she added.

“You have to rely on the goodwill of people to keep their sidewalks clean. But that hasn’t always happened,” she said.

If you drive around, you can’t always see the sidewalks, so the elected officials need to get out of their cars, walk around and look, she said.

“We are in a situation where we have to enforce the code consistently or at least find a way of reporting the infraction consistently,” she said.

During the meeting, Bateman praised the DPW for its efforts during the recent snowstorms. Some councilors and members of the public also commended the DPW.

A pair of public speakers expressed their dissatisfaction with the city’s snow removal ordinance.

Lee Walker, a landlord who owns “approximately 25-30 buildings” commended the DPW’s performance, but expressed his frustration with the snow removal ordinance.

He said he had received a letter from Code Enforcement Department for not clearing snow from the sidewalk at one of his rental properties.

Many city-owned sidewalks haven’t been shoveled, he pointed out.

Walker also operates a bus business and is working until 3 in the morning. He has noticed places like West Park where the walkways haven’t been shoveled, he told the councilors.

“You have the audacity to send me a letter saying I’m going to be fined with (nuisance abatement) points assessed to me when you can’t even take care of your own house?” Walker said. “But, to sit here and send me a letter like this when yous don’t even take care of your own house – shame on you.”

City resident Miles Becker also thanked the DPW for its wonderful performance in keeping the city roads snow-free the past couple of weeks, even if they didn’t address the park (as Walker mentioned).
“I’m tired of shoveling, picking ice, salting the sidewalks and snow blowing,” he continued. “You know if I’m out there struggling, trying to keep up with all this stuff and if I got assessed three points, I wouldn’t be a very happy person right now.”

Carson tries to keep his property pretty well up to date and the letter didn’t get to his house, it went someplace else, 911 changed the address, Becker said, adding that citing Carson was “unnecessary.”

“I think with the snowfall amount that we’ve had over the past six weeks, I think we need to relax this particular situation. You’ve got to relax on these people. I saw somebody in your ward, First Ward councilor, 80 years old, with a shovel in his hand. He’s out there digging. I said, ‘What are you doing?’ and he said, ‘I am trying to keep up with the law.’ It is really unnecessary to put this kind of pressure on people and we’ve got another, at least, four weeks of winter here,” Becker said.

Councilor Walker said he received a phone call from Zeta Beta Tau, a fraternity at SUNY Oswego, who offered to do community service work for the city.

They are willing to shovel snow for the elderly, handicapped or disabled, he said.

For more information, call Walker at 343-4126.

“I too want to throw some kudos to the DPW commissioner and his staff for the long hours and dedication,” said Kaplewicz.

He urged residents to clear snow from their sidewalks and be cautious as they walk and drive.

Falling ice is a danger now, he said, adding, “There’s some ‘half-a-Volkswagens’ hanging from some homes. Watch where your children are going, watch where they’re playing, watch where your cars are parked.”

Sidewalks belong to the people of this city and should be available to use, just as is a street,” Cosemento said. “The city cannot legislate humility. We need our property owners to manage their properties as if they were the neighbors.”