Residents pushed to clear snow from sidewalks

After ten days of snow lingering on some Lexington sidewalks, Lexington’s city manager upped enforcement of a city ordinance that penalizes residents for not shoveling snow from their sidewalks.

Mimi Sherrill

After 10 days of snow lingering on some Lexington sidewalks, Lexington’s city manager announced Jan. 27 that the city would increase enforcement of a city ordinance that requires residents to shovel snow from their sidewalks.

When nearly eight inches of snow were forecasted for Lexington on Jan. 16, residents took refuge inside their warm homes in preparation for the winter storm. 

However, just several hours after the snowfall ceased, most Lexington residents were outside shoveling snow in adherence with the city’s code. 

The city code requires property owners to clear their sidewalks within six hours of the end of the snow storm. A violation of the city code is classified as a Class 1 misdemeanor, which could yield a hefty fine or even jail time. 

If snow is not removed promptly after a storm, slick patches of ice form on the pavement, making it dangerous to use sidewalks in town. And since temperatures remained below or only slightly above freezing in the days following January’s storm, the patches of hazardous ice didn’t melt for weeks. 

City Manager Jim Halasz said the safety of citizens is the main concern driving the city’s increased enforcement of this code. 

“All of the children in town walk to school, and we really do not want them walking in the streets, because the sidewalks are covered in ice,” Halasz said. 

Halasz said that the city rarely experiences heavy snowfall, so it seldom has to cite people for failing to clear their sidewalks. But the snow storm that swept through Lexington in January forced the city to turn to more strict enforcement of the code, Halasz said. 

When attempting to enforce the city’s code, local government officials were met with some resistance and disapproval from residents, Halasz said. To help those who were unable to shovel the snow themselves, a group of local police officers and firefighters volunteered their time to clear sidewalks across town. 

When it snows, downtown businesses in Lexington are tasked with clearing the sidewalk in front of their shop. To assist in this effort, city workers haul snow away from the streets of downtown Lexington when the city experiences a significant snow storm. 

“If you remove snow from the streets, it ends up on the sidewalk. If you push it from the sidewalk, it ends up in the street. So we haul the snow away from the downtown area,” Halasz said. 

Walkabout Outfitters employees Megan Martin and McKenna King said the snow significantly impacted their business during mid-January. King said it is extremely difficult to reach most shops downtown when it snows due to road closures. 

“They restrict the parking for snow removal. You can’t park on Main Street at all, so you have to wait for the parking lots to be plowed,” King said. 

Moving forward, Halasz said he plans to change the city’s code to include a plan to assist those who struggle to move the snow themselves. Halasz said this could include hiring an outside contractor to clear snow for the elderly and disabled, as well as a city-issued reminder to encourage residents to make preparations in advance for the snow. 

“Our objective is not to issue tickets. Our objective is to make sure the sidewalks are clear to keep the people of Lexington safe,” Halasz said.