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Is 24 hours enough time to shovel your sidewalk?

Each week we select a news story, Letter to the Editor, column or editorial that's generated a lot of feedback at PostBulletin.com and reprint some of those comments on this page. This week's topic is Tuesday's news story about the Rochester City Council's decision not to modify the city's sidewalk-clearing ordinance, which gives homeowners and business owners 24 hours to clear their sidewalks after a snowfall. The city has increased enforcement of the statute, prompting some homeowners to complain that the grace period is too short and the penalties are too steep.

Below are some of the comments we received.

"Gotta be careful levying fines based on complaints. Some private citizens are vindictive. ... As for the grace period, those that shovel their own and then are gone for a weekend will apparently be penalized. This is central planning run amok."

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"This is so unfair for night workers who work 12 hours all night and then sleep during the day, or people that are out of town when it snows. Maybe night workers should crank up their snowblowers at 10-11 at night and irritate their neighbors to avoid a fine."

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"These fines are not levied based solely on complaints. A complaint may get someone out there to check the sidewalk, but if there is no snow to move, there is no fine levied. If you leave the snow on your sidewalk longer than 24 hours, then that is not your neighbor's fault. You can, however, wait as long as you want to do the rest of your driveway, steps, etc."

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"Perhaps this is an opportunity to get to know your neighbors better and to form a better bond with them. Arrange a co-op agreement with them to clear each other's sidewalks when one of you is gone."

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"Funny how the streets do not have to be cleaned but the sidewalks do. There is still a car plowed in that has not moved for a week. Tow the car and clean the road."

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"Minnesotans crying about snow on sidewalks β€” sad, sad, sad."

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"Last week everyone in my house was sick. I even spent the night in the hospital for breathing treatments and IV antibiotics. Do you think any of us were thinking about clearing the sidewalk? I know there are slackers that just ignore it, but sometimes there are extenuating circumstances that make it take longer than 24 hours to get it cleared."

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"Ever tried getting a wheelchair down an unshoveled sidewalk?"

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"How about the fact that after the last significant snowfall, I cleared my sidewalk. A few hours later a city plow whizzed east on Center Street and threw a new batch from the street well over the boulevard strip and onto my sidewalk. This is not the first time this has happened, but I never thought I might be fined for the city's snowplowing. Is this perhaps a new way for the strapped city government to raise revenue?"

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"The rules are not out of line from other cities in the Midwest. In most places I have been, enforcement usually starts with a complaint, so don't look for roving sidewalk enforcement squads. Common sense will triumph over hysteria."

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"Unshoveled snow becomes packed into ice β€” especially with the thawing and freezing we've had. I've fallen on ice and broken my wrist, so I know it's important to clear the snow. If you're going to be out of town, ask a neighbor to cover your back. Better yet, offer a neighbor kid a small token to take care of it. Another great reason to get to know your neighbors!"

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"I know a girl who is in a wheelchair  because of an unshoveled sidewalk. Double the fines for consecutive offenses. Consider increasing the grace period to 36 hours for residential homes."

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"Boo-hoo to people getting fined. This policy was way overdue. I hope more people get fined and fast! Now, if Rochester would just enact a real snow emergency system for the roads, we'd be in good shape. When's that going to happen?"

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"My vote is 24 hours is reasonable as long as the city council guarantees my street will be plowed within four hours. Usually our street is one of the last to be done, and it has caused me to be late for work on several occasions over the years. I also hope we have the right to face our accuser."

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"If the sidewalk belongs to a resident, said resident should have the right to do (or not do) whatever he/she would like, so long as others are not harmed. If the sidewalk belongs to the city, the city should clear it. There's no constitutional basis for requiring property owners to manipulate their own property against their will."

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"Feel free to buy a condo and never worry about snow removal again. Or, maybe then you have to worry about the maintenance guys not clearing the snow. In any case, you seem to be fine with walking through ice and snow, so everybody else should be as well, right? When you buy a house in the city, it comes with certain perks as well as chores. Think about that next time you turn on the faucet or turn from your driveway onto a paved street instead of a gravel road."

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"A friend shared that a few weeks ago they were called out of town when their sister was injured in a car accident. The last thing on their mind was driving 230 miles back to Rochester to shovel their sidewalk. How insensitive of them. ... This really gives the foul odor of our 'hopefully soon to be unelected officials' taking advantage of a situation for financial gain."

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"Shoveling is great exercise. Everyone should do it, but not everyone can. It's inconvenient, but I have some compassion for my fellow humans, and therefore am considerate enough to restrain from reporting them. Reporting them would be (in my opinion) selfish and inconsiderate. If you feel differently, my unprofessional opinion is that you have narcissism issues."

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"This is not going to be a neighbor-against-neighbor issue. I give the good citizens of Rochester more credit. If your neighbor is elderly, out of town or has physical limitations, you as a neighbor would know the reason their sidewalk is unshoveled and wouldn't call that in, would you? The city is not going to patrol neighborhoods."

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"Don't know where the pay-to-shovel kids are. In one city I lived in, after a good snowstorm I'd have half a dozen kids/adults knocking at the door to shovel snow for cash."

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"I really feel bad for the elderly and people with illness and disabilities that want to live in their homes for this unneeded worry they will have to have in the back of their minds when the next snowflake comes falling out of the sky. In these times, it is nearly impossible to find a neighborhood kid that would be willing to shovel a sidewalk for a neighbor to earn some extra cash."

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"24 hours is too short a grace period. With the hectic schedules a lot of folks have today, 24 hours is unreasonable and 48 hours is more agreeable. I also know a lot of people feel that same way."

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"I plan to try and work something out with a neighbor, but unfortunately there are some circumstances such as a bad neighbor or neighborhood, plus crime seems to increase during the holidays. I am sorry to say that people don't really want their neighbors to know they are out of town. We have people being robbed while they sit in their own house in broad daylight, so imagine if the hoodlems see a neighbor shoveling your sidewalk. May as well leave the door open."

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