Editor's Note: This letter was sent to Helena's mayor and city commission, according to the author.
Here’s our appeal to the citizens of Helena: Please support the City with our sidewalk snow removal conditions as I have done below.
Dear Mayor and Commission,
I am again submitting images of snow and ice covered sidewalks, unshoveled curb cuts and truncated domes which are covered with ice and snow and completely impassable from the same areas I have been documenting for the 3 years of our “Rewritten” Snow Removal Policy. I have, each time, made the City Code Enforcement Department aware of these properties and followed up with a phone conversation. I have indicated in past admin meetings, conversations with city staff and in the ADA meetings that the Department does a good job but appears short staffed. The success of our SRP is dependent on noncompliance being identified and it is clear that Greta cannot get to all those properties that do not adhere to our policy.
In the January 17 admin meeting this issue was brought up by Commissioner Haladay and there was discussion on the number of complaints and the required follow up. My question is, How many complaints are received by the City on an ongoing basis? And, how many can the Code Enforcement Department respond to in a timely manner? Considering the photo documentation that has been submitted of the same areas for the past three years, it appears that the demand is more than the current Department can manage. Any changes that were made to the amount of snow and ice on these properties are made by weather, the effect of melting, not by compliance by property owners.
The images that are being submitted are of the same properties, both residential and commercial, that I have been submitting for the last three years. Following are suggestions that have been made to address the management of the amount of complaints during the impacted season.
1- The use of Part Time employees during the winter helping Greta identify noncompliance and give citations, as well as follow-up. It is my understanding that this process is in place. How often is this enacted and how effective is it to handle the demand?
2- City employees and staff identify and report infractions to Greta (a city staff member mentioned in one of the ADA meeting that this was a part of what was expected of them.) Does this happen and is it effective?
3- At the initial meetings for the rewrite of the SRP it was suggested that the volunteer police unit be utilized in identification and/or enforcement, (again this was discussed by Mr. McCauley and Mr.Sparks. Chief McGee was intrigued by this idea.)
4- Create Coalitions with other organizations: educators, elected officials, health professionals, non-profits, citizen advocates, etc. promoting the work of educating our community and getting out information about help with snow shoveling. The city has a program that uses those on community service to shovel for those unable to do so, most people have not heard of this valuable program.
5- Use transportation employees to spot un-shoveled pathways, issue citations and provide referral information about available services. All public employees can assist in snow removal enforcement. Parking control officers are also in a perfectly clear position to assist.
In conclusion, I am submitting this as a citizen of the City of Helena, not in my capacity as the Chair of the ADA Compliance Committee. I, with the support of Bike Walk Montana and Montana Independent Living Project, and after consulting with the Executive Director of the BID, hope that the City will look at and consider these suggestions to make our snow removal policy more effective and make our sidewalks, curb cuts and truncated domes passable to all citizens.