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Valley News Dispatch

In some Alle-Kiski Valley towns: Clear snow from your sidewalk or face a fine

Emily Balser
| Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, 6:51 p.m.
Jeffery Klingensmith, 62, of Allegheny Township clears the sidewalk in front of the First United Methodist Church in Leechburg on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Jeffery Klingensmith, 62, of Allegheny Township clears the sidewalk in front of the First United Methodist Church in Leechburg on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018.
Mike Mrochek, 61, salts the sidewalk along First Street in Leechburg on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Mike Mrochek, 61, salts the sidewalk along First Street in Leechburg on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018.

Homeowners across the Alle-Kiski Valley may need to be more diligent about clearing snow from sidewalks this winter as some municipalities begin to issue citations to residents who don't comply with snow removal ordinances.

Not all municipalities have ordinances that require snow to be removed, but for the ones that do, the timeframe can vary from just a few hours to 24 hours after the snow stops falling.

Residents typically can check to see what the ordinance is where they live by checking with their municipal office. Ordinances also sometimes can be posted online.

Leechburg has issued 34 snow removal citations since the beginning of the year, according to records at the magistrate's office in Leechburg. The ordinance requires snow to be removed 18 hours after the snow ends.

Mayor Wayne Dobos said the borough has been issuing citations because sidewalks were blocked where children walk to school along First Street.

Dobos said the ordinance isn't new and that the borough has been citing residents for years.

“People have been told about it before,” Dobos said. “But until you get into somebody's pocket, they just forget that it ever existed.”

Dobos said despite residents complaints about the citations — which cost more than $100 including the court costs — they appear to be working.

“I did notice this last snow, since we cited people (after) the first, now it's gotten much better,” he said.

During Leechburg Council's January meeting, Councilman Christian Vaccaro said officials are working on making the borough's ordinances more accessible so residents aren't caught off guard by the citations.

The borough doesn't give warnings for snow removal violations.

Leechburg resident Larry Tuttle attended the meeting to encourage the borough to reconsider issuing the citations.

“Don't pick and choose which laws you want to enforce,” Tuttle said.

Vaccaro told residents they can always dispute a citation at the magistrate's office.

“I would recommend contesting if you feel there was some unfairness,” Vaccaro said.

Other A-K towns' policies

Tarentum and Freeport require residents to clear their sidewalks within 24 hours after the snow stops. Residents in both boroughs face a $100 fine if they don't comply.

“I give them 24 hours, and then I'll give them notice,” said Tarentum Code Enforcement Officer Chris Fabec. “If they don't comply with the notice, I'll cite them.”

Fabec said “mostly everybody in the borough complies.”

He said there are organizations and groups that can assist elderly or disabled people with snow removal, and he will work with residents who can't shovel the snow themselves.

He said not clearing sidewalks can be a safety concern for people using them.

In Freeport, alleged violations are investigated by Freeport police.

“Most people are cooperative,” said police Chief Jeffrey Swiklinski.

“It's rare for people not to clear sidewalks,” he said.

Swiklinski said police check to see if the residents are ill or otherwise not able to comply before issuing a fine.

Harrison's ordinance requires snow to be removed within five hours after the snow stops falling. If the snow stops after 6 p.m., residents have until 10 the next morning.

Lindsay Fraser, supervisor of Harrison's zoning and ordinance department, said they have given warnings to about 35 residents this winter.

“It doesn't necessarily make sense to issue a citation for this sort of thing,” she said. “It takes about a month to get a hearing.”

Fraser said they try to make sure the sidewalks along Freeport Road and the streets in the areas of the schools are clear.

If residents don't comply, the fine can reach up to $300, including court costs, she said.

“I would say that in the past there hasn't been strict enforcement,” Fraser said. “But, as we have more and more conversations with people, they are happy to comply.”

Staff writers Madasyn Czebiniak and Chuck Biedka contributed to this report. Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4680, emilybalser@tribweb.com or via Twitter @emilybalser.

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