Rochester Sidewalk Snow Policy

There have been many complaints about our snow removal policy.  I continue to support the policy and want to keep it strong.  Based on usage the policy remains very popular with the public.  Every council member except Bruce Snyder has supported and reaffirmed our personal responsibility policy.  There are some false assumptions about how we handle snow removal.  I hope to provide some interesting information here.  Removing snow from your sidewalks in a timely manner is a requirement to own property in Rochester.  No exceptions, no excuses.

Here is a link to Rochester’s sidewalk snow removal policy.

Why do this?

40% of Minnesotan’s do not drive.  These people are disproportionately young, old, poor, or disabled.  They rely on pedestrian ways to get around or to get to public transportation.  I personally know 3 people who are legally blind in my ward that are only safe if sidewalks are cleared at a consistent time.  I have also seen school kids walk out onto a street to avoid an uncleared sidewalk.

Why is this so expensive, why not let the private sector clear for less?

We bid out sidewalk clearing to the lowest bidder.  We do not profit from snow clearing.  We do impose an escalating fine however the revenue generated does not cover the cost of the program.

Why not issue a warning?

If we dispatch staff we are spending taxpayer money, the question is who should pay.  I believe the property owners that fail to meet their obligations should not be subsidized by other taxpayers by way of a warning.  That said we did not fine after the first snow fall this year.

Why 24 hours?

Because that is plenty of time.  Typically fines come far after that, we restart the clock with any new snow and tend not to go out in frigid temperatures.

But I shoveled…

We document the condition of sidewalks before clearing with a photo.  I will double check if we are still doing this with public works.

What about the trails?

I disagree with Olmsted County on this.  Hennepin and Ramsey County both clear all trails within 24 hours.  Olmsted County does not do this, they also continue to oppose a Complete Streets policy.  Most of the trails that are not cleared are county paths.  Some city paths are also not cleared either to allow skiing or because there are other walking routes.  Places where the trail also serves as the sidewalk must be cleared.

Why are some areas enforced and others are not?

Our system is complaint based every complaint gets equal treatment.  If areas are not addressed it is only because there are not complaints there.

Why keep an unpopular policy?

People with special needs, children, and seniors that don’t drive deserve safe sidewalks regardless of popularity.  Further, the number of people utilizing the city to clear neglected sidewalks is an order of magnitude greater than those that complain about the requirement.  The program is very popular and would remain even if it were not.



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