Winter clearing at issue with new sidewalk in Hadley

Staff Writer
Friday, April 19, 2019

HADLEY — The prospect of municipal resources being used to clear snow and ice from a new sidewalk on Route 9 is prompting town officials to bring a bylaw to Town Meeting next month which, if passed, could levy fines on property owners who fail to maintain these walkways during the winter months.

At the annual meeting on May 2, voters will be asked to consider amending an existing bylaw by adopting a rule requiring that property owners remove snow and ice or treat the sidewalk within 24 hours of the end of a storm, or else be subject to fines.

While the town’s Department of Public Works has long cleared snow from the sidewalks in the historic town center, including those on Middle and West streets and adjacent to public buildings such as Town Hall and Hopkins Academy, it’s uncertain how snow and ice will be taken care of on a new sidewalk added to Route 9 from South Maple Street east to the Amherst town line last year.

Select Board member David J. Fill II said this past winter he and DPW Superintendent Chris Okafor made the decision to not do any plowing or treating of that new sidewalk.

Okafor told the Select Board recently that costs of sidewalk snow and ice removal have gone up over time, with the town having to pay workers for overtime and have an on-call supervisor when this work is being done.

Under the current bylaw, “no owner or tenant… shall place or suffer to remain, for more than 12 hours between sunrise and sunset, any snow upon such sidewalk, nor any ice upon such sidewalk, unless such ice is made even and covered with sand to prevent slipping, nor shall any person place ice or snow in a street outside the sidewalk.”

As drafted, the new bylaw gives residents and property owners clear instructions on what they must do during the winter: “Snow, ice, or sleet shall be removed from the full width of the sidewalk, including abutting curb cuts/ramps. If the same cannot be wholly removed, said owner shall sprinkle sand or other substance thereon, so the sidewalks shall be safe for travel. Nor shall any person place ice or snow in a street outside the walk.”

A first offense fine begins at $10, increases to $25 on the second offense and is capped at $100 for third and subsequent offenses.

But even though the article will be on the Town Meeting warrant, there is some concern about how it will be executed.

Police Chief Michael Mason told the board that he wants to make sure residents are fully informed about the bylaw before issuing any penalties.

Fill said he would prefer not to impose fines for not clearing the sidewalks on Route 9 and other state roads, because that should be the responsibility of the state’s Department of Transportation. In fact, MassDOT did clear the sidewalk on Route 9 near and on the Coolidge Bridge last winter.

Board member John Waskiewicz agreed that the state needs to step up and clear snow and ice from its sidewalks, and that any fines should be issued to the state, even if these won’t be paid.

Waskiewicz suggested setting up a meeting with an official from MassDOT’s District 2 office in Northampton to get clarity about the state’s responsibilities for winter maintenance of sidewalks.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.