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Should Montgomery County Be Stricter On Shoveling Sidewalks?

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Montgomery County residents current have 24 hours to clear their sidewalks after a snowstorm.
Elvert Barnes: http://www.flickr.com/photos/95413346@N00/12123936785
Montgomery County residents current have 24 hours to clear their sidewalks after a snowstorm.

Almost two weeks after it fell, increasingly small piles of frozen dirty snow remain throughout the area. One Montgomery County council member wants to look at changing laws regarding how quickly residents and businesses must have their sidewalks cleared.

Councilman Hans Riemer says the current law, which mandates that 24 hours after the end of a snow storm sidewalks must be cleared, isn't anywhere near strong enough. He wrote a letter announcing his intention to draft a bill that would create a "Sidewalk Snow Removal Plan."

In the letter, Riemer listed several examples of residents — some with strollers and others using motorized wheelchairs — having to walk on major roads with heavy traffic buzzing by because sidewalks were not cleared days after the storm.

Council president Craig Rice believes new laws are not needed.

"If this most recent snow storm hadn't happened, folks hadn't said that there was a problem with our system," Rice says. "Understanding that this was an anomaly storm, and not the norm, then why would we be reacting to something that was an anomaly and not the norm?"

Rice says better education about the current 24-hour law is needed. But Riemer wants stronger enforcement, meaning more fines for property owners who don't clear their walks. 

If both men agree on anything, it's that resources for such enforcement would be tough to find.  For Rice, there's something else that worries him about tougher enforcement.

"If we're really going to start fining the grandmother who's in her house because she can't shovel her walkway and nobody wants to step up and help her do that, then we're really going down the wrong road," he says.

The council will hold a hearing on the response to the storm in the coming weeks, but it has yet to be scheduled, giving Riemer more time to craft his bill.

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