Lawmakers in Montgomery County are already thinking ahead to the first winter snowfall.
Call it a good example of planning ahead. On Tuesday, the Montgomery County Council held a public hearing on a new snow removal plan as temperatures were approaching triple digits.
The hearing at the Council chamber in Rockville attracted only one speaker. Carl Custer of Bethesda said he agrees with lawmakers looking to beef up enforcement of the county's snow removal laws, which mandate that sidewalks be clear of snow 24 hours after a storm has passed. Property owners who don't can be fined, but such actions are rarely taken.
Custer said he thought more fines should be issued, but adds the county must better inform residents of the law, something he feels many have no idea about. Custer also had this idea: "For commercial areas... you could task the parking enforcement people with enforcing the requirements. After all... icy sidewalks are a worse public safety hazard than expired parking meters."
His comment drew some chuckles from Council members, but it also underscored what has been a big problem with attempts at enforcing snow removal laws — questions continue to outnumber answers. Councilman Roger Berliner brought up this scenario: "What happens when it's county plows that are putting the snow on sidewalks?"
Councilman Hans Riemer, who's spearheading the effort for changes, says for some residents it's too onerous to clear the sidewalks around their homes. "If they have a long stretch... if they're older... if they're along a state highway that constantly gets plowed up... if they're near a high school... the answer can't be to cite that person every time there's a storm and let the kids walk in the street," he said.
Riemer says it's likely that a stronger public education campaign about the law will happen as opposed to more enforcement, as the latter would cost more money.