By Frank Shafroth , Alexandria
To the editor:
The blanket of snow that fell last month added — in too many instances — a white cover over sheer ice from sidewalks not cleared in neighborhoods and in front of businesses up and down Alexandria streets. This, in turn, added another layer of danger, especially for school children and older residents.
Like most cities in America, city code provides that snow and ice must be cleared from all paved sidewalks abutting one’s property within 24 to 72 hours of the end of the snowfall. The code provides that failure to clear sidewalks may result in the city having the work done and charging the cost to the property owner or fining them $50.
The city notes that clearing the sidewalk of ice and snow should be considered part of property maintenance responsibilities for owners and tenants. Further, the code provides that owners and tenants who may be unavailable or unable to clear sidewalks are responsible for making arrangements to have the work completed in the event there is a storm.
What seems clear is not the sidewalks, but rather the ineffectiveness of the efforts to implement the ordinance. This issue would seem to be of special concern near schools and retail zones, but a pedestrian slide along Del Ray’s retail areas demonstrates the ineffectiveness of current enforcement.
It might make sense for the city council to consider modifying the code —especially with regard to retail establishments — to include notifying liability insurance providers of any failure to comply. It might make sense for the city council to consider upping the fine and using a portion of the proceeds to support nonprofit organizations in the city in return for their commitment to help clear the priority zones. We could even offer the president’s proposed new minimum wage.
Given the reluctance of many drivers to recognize the danger of ice on the roads, sidewalks with up to an inch of sheer ice — now camouflaged by snow — are an accident waiting to happen. At risk are the most vulnerable in our community. The polar vortex should merit some consideration about what worked and what didn’t in our community, which prides itself on taking care of its youngest and oldest members.