No exceptions to Idaho Falls’ snow-removal ordinance

Idaho Falls

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IDAHO FALLS — Prior to a wording change, those who were pregnant, elderly, or physically/mentally impaired were exempt from being required to remove snow from their sidewalks.

Now those who fall under that category will be held responsible for snow removal from sidewalks in front of their homes after the City Council amended exemptions from code 8-10-8.

Ordinance 2394 stated that property owners are required to remove hail, snow, sleet, and/or ice from sidewalks and other public ways within the city, within 24 hours immediately following a precipitation event.

Code 8-10-8 had been in effect for several years and stated the following people would be exempt from the duty:

1. A person who is physically or mentally in such a manner that they are unable to perform the duty imposed. 2. A pregnant person. 3. A person who is 70 or more years of age; and, 4. A lessee who occupies a unit of a multi-family dwelling on the owner’s property who is not an agent etc. (Lessee’s whose landlord don’t make them responsible for snow removal)

The purpose of the snow-removal ordinance is to minimize potential danger and obstruction from certain sidewalks and other public ways and encourage use by pedestrians. Prior to the change in the city code, those who were exempt could contact the city for assistance.

Residents can be cited with an infraction for every 24-hour period their sidewalks are blocked, according to city code.

Kerry Hammon, spokeswoman for the City of Idaho Falls, said to remain fair, the city can’t make exemptions to certain groups of people.

“That singles out individuals, and we need to prevent that in our city ordinances,” Hammon said Monday. “Essentially, the language in the ordinance was changed to clarify that all property owners within the City of Idaho Falls are responsible for removing snow from their sidewalks to be compliant with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) access. The snow must be removed from sidewalks within 24 hours immediately following the cessation of the precipitation event.”

During a special City Council meeting Nov. 21, Councilwoman Barbara Ehardt, liaison to the Public Works Department, said now everyone will be held accountable for snow removal on sidewalks.

“We’re basically saying everyone is responsible to remove the snow from their property. As many people do, some will no doubt be required to hire people to do that because they themselves may not be able to do that,” Ehardt said.

She adds it is the fairest way to make sidewalks accessible to everyone.

Hammon said City Attorney Randy Fife did not feel that such exemptions would meet a constitutional challenge in the courts because the categories unfairly singled out people based upon physical characteristics, gender fertility, and age and because those exemptions didn’t accomplish the goals of sidewalk snow removal.

“Adjustments to the city code now place responsibility on the property owner, who themselves can decide how to remove the snow to comply,” Hammon said.

During the meeting, Councilman John Radford said he hopes those who need assistance won’t hesitate to speak up.

“I hope that the people who have a hard time making this happen themselves, whether disabled or older or infirm, that they’ll reach out to those around them to those who can help,” he said.

Hammon said the city isn’t trying to neglect those in need and has set up a way for them to continue to receive help.

The city’s volunteer coordinator in the Parks and Recreation Department, Mason Handke, is making a list of those who are available to clear snow for those who can’t do it themselves.

If you are an organization are willing to volunteer, contact Handke at (208) 612-8786.

“We encourage citizens to reach out in service to their family members, friends and neighbors who may not be physically able to remove snow from their sidewalks,” Hammon said.