Those who lag in getting snow cleared from their sidewalks could find someone else stepping in to do the job — at a hefty price — sooner this winter.
City officials Monday suggested having Midwest Roll-Off handle sidewalk inspections in La Crosse as well as cleanup after a snowfall.
The contractor, at the Engineering Department’s direction, would go through the city 24 hours after the snow stops to check for compliance as required by city ordinance.
Within 48 hours, sidewalks that still have snow will be cleared at a cost of $2.50 per lineal foot, plus a $50 administrative fee, with the property owner billed for the work. Any unpaid charges are added to the property’s tax bill.
Having the contractor rather than city staff look for these properties should mean a quicker response to what has been a chronic problem, Doug Kerns, an assistant in engineering department, told the Board of Public Works.
A lack of staff time now leaves some unshoveled sidewalks unnoticed or unreported for as long as a week, allowing the snow to be trampled and packed down into a thick layer of ice that must be chipped away, Kerns said.
It’s a hazard to pedestrians, he said, and can make it impossible for the elderly or handicapped to safely navigate over.
Midwest Roll-Off is capable of clearing 30 sidewalks a day. Last winter, it did about 2,000 feet of sidewalk, Kerns said.
Council member Bob Seaquist questioned having the same company do inspections and snow removal, which struck him as akin to a fox counting the chickens.
But Assistant City Engineer Bernard Lenz said Midwest Roll-Off has played a similar role in several cases without problems. The contractor must provide the city with a list of snow-covered walkways after its inspections.
In another significant change, the city will not leave door-hanger warnings about uncleared sidewalks this winter as in the past, except after the first snow event, Kerns said.
The city is not required to issue any notice, he said, and in most cases it draws no response.
The city’s Board of Public Works approved the move Monday, though it requested staff report back after the second significant snowfall to see if the program was working as intended.
It also advised letting other city departments that might be affected know to step up their own efforts, to avoid the angry response that can come when snow removal work is done on private property while a nearby city-owned sidewalk remains covered.
“Yeah,” Lenz said, “that’s a very difficult phone call to take.”