Sidewalk maintenance resident responsibility

by Town Reminder

By Kristin Will

SOUTH HADLEY – Sidewalks need shoveling this winter, too.
Despite the wintry conditions outside, many residents stay active, by either running or walking around town, utilizing the sidewalks
Within 24 hours of a snowfall, a resident living in a home abutting a sidewalk must remove any accumulated snow and ice, according to town bylaw 905.2. The town is not responsible for tending to these sidewalks.
But not every resident abides by this particular bylaw.
“I would say it’s a mixed bag,” said resident Mariann Millard, who runs and walks in the wintertime. “There are some houses where they haven’t even done anything. And some are poster children of what you should be doing.”
Although some runners choose to run on the road, in the breakdown lane, regardless of weather, Millard is among those who prefer sidewalks. “It gives me more of a buffer between the cars, trucks and myself,” she said. “Even when walking, I would prefer to walk on the sidewalk than on the street.”
She knows by running in the winter time, runners are “taking our chances,” she said. Millard makes sure to wear red colors and stay visible to motorists. And with all that personal safety preparation, she hopes South Hadley residents would take the same measures by clearing snow and ice from sidewalks abutting their homes.
“If you’re just navigating the sidewalks in a non-Village Commons, downtown South Hadley center area, there’s a question of whether you can really trust the sidewalks,” she said. “And if you’re over a certain age, it’s really dangerous.”
Shoveling snow from a sidewalk is not all residents are required to do – they need to maintain them. Snow melts onto sidewalks and turns to ice regularly. Residents must make sure to clear all ice off sidewalks, and sand or salt them, as the winter presses on.
Sidewalks cleared of snow, but not ice, are treacherous for both walkers and runners. When it comes to running on an icy sidewalk or running in the road, Millard said, “I feel safer, actually, running in oncoming traffic.”
Millard said she is surprised when she sees unmaintained sidewalks. “Maybe they’re not aware, maybe they can’t. Maybe they don’t care,” she said. If residents shoveled and threw salt on the sidewalk, “that actually stays there for a while and does a really good job of getting rid of that ice. It’s not just a snow hazard, it’s an ice hazard.”
Residents who do not follow the town bylaw and clear a sidewalk within 24 hours of a storm are subject to a $25 fine for every day it remains uncleared.
“We do remind people that they should clear their sidewalks,” said Town Administrator Michael J. Sullivan.
He said this specific town bylaw is “one of those regulations put in place to encourage compliance.” However, it is hard to implement.
But, he said, “for the vast majority of homes, we don’t have a problem.”
The town does have a small set of roads it will maintain, such as main roads and those with schools, but South Hadley Police Chef David Labrie said homeowners do have a responsibility to maintain sidewalks.
“It’s unfortunate, because in some cases, there’s hardship, whether financial, or medical,” he said. “But it’s the responsibility of owning property.”
On occasion, LaBrie said the department has dispatched officers to knock on doors of those residents who haven’t complied and ask them to clear the sidewalks.
“We usually get complaints where the snow has been plowed onto a sidewalk, like on Route 116 where there is no barrier between the sidewalk and the road. That makes for an additional burden to a property owner,” he said.