City calls on volunteers to help keep sidewalks free of snow

Friday, February 3, 2012 | 5:51 p.m. CST; updated 9:04 p.m. CST, Friday, February 3, 2012

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. 

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Mike Martin February 3, 2012 | 6:25 p.m.

This old story is back? Thought this was resolved.

Regardless, it's pretty insulting to suggest volunteers help City Hall enforce a poorly-conceived ordinance most people hate.

People are busy, they have jobs, lives, rising taxes, rising fees, rising utility rates, and rising costs to deal with.

How about PAYING people to shovel snow? Or better yet, BUYING the proper equipment to do it in house?

City Hall spends what -- $22,000 per acre buying vacant park land from big developers, and how many millions is it now on Garagezilla Junior -- $7 million,$9, that's not right...$11.3 million!

Soon, it will match the $15 million spent on Garagezilla, Sr.

Spend a few thousand on people shoveling snow or sidewalk plows, for pete's sake.

The patronizing suggestions seem way out of touch.


(Report Comment)
dave smith February 4, 2012 | 8:49 a.m.

The sidewalks are forced on landowners and for public use just like the roads in front of same houses. The public as a whole should be responsible for the sidewalks-maintenance,upkeep,snow/ice removal, etc. I know funds are an issue but that's a separate problem. Walking is a much better cause to be funded publicly than individuals in autos. And then there's the lawyers to consider-it's no secret that someone that slips on snow/ice and gets hurt has a stronger case if the sidewalk looks to have been maintained then if it looks to have had no snow/ice removal effort. If you shovel than you are seen as taking responsibility for it.

(Report Comment)

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