COLUMBIA — Temperatures are high and precipitation is low this January in Columbia, but snow removal still remains a topic of concern.
At its Jan. 17 meeting, the Columbia City Council pushed for a volunteer effort to shovel sidewalks in front of homes of the elderly and people with disabilities. Even though temperatures have reached near-record highs lately and snow has been almost absent, Leigh Britt, Office of Neighborhood Services manager and volunteer coordinator for the city, said sidewalk snow removal is still "an issue of conversation."
Mayor Bob McDavid commented on Columbia's "culture of volunteerism" and suggested students volunteer to help.
"There are a lot of able-bodied young people over at the university and our public school system who could enter the volunteer culture we have in Columbia, and I think we could do this as a team," McDavid said. "The whole would surpass what individuals could do."
Still, a formal volunteer program might be too difficult logistically. Britt said arranging for college students to volunteer is problematic considering they are often away for several weeks in the heart of winter.
"At this point we don't have any plans to do a formal snow removal volunteer program but really want to take the informal route to just raise awareness about what the city ordinance is and encourage people to help out in their own way where they might live," Britt said.
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe asked staff to identify priority walking routes besides the nonresidential central city areas, so that the requirement to shovel sidewalks might be better enforced.
The Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission earlier this winter prepared a report addressing enforcement and removal options. It identified 91 miles of priority sidewalk routes in the central city where snow should be shoveled away, according to a previous Missourian article.
"I think this is just a real challenging issue because there has been some hesitation to identify a priority route, so what I'm hearing is that all sidewalks are important," Britt said.
First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt suggested combining a volunteer effort with a paid effort, similar to what New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani did during that city's 2010 snow emergency. Schmidt said employing able-bodied citizens would be a solution "for people rather than machines."
Britt said educating citizens on the importance of sidewalk snow removal is one of the better solutions. People can volunteer informally to help older neighbors or those with disabilities, or they can contact the Boone County Council on Aging to volunteer formally. Central Missouri Community Action also keeps a list of volunteers willing to remove snow or to do other good deeds.
"If everybody is just responsible for their own property, then we can really make some headway on this," Britt said.