North Irwin, neighboring officials warn residents about snow, ice removal
The recent warmer temperatures and rain might have kept some North Irwin property owners from being fined for failing to remove snow and ice from their sidewalks.
But with several weeks of winter remaining and the return of sub-freezing temperatures in the forecast, borough officials are warning residents that fines of up to $300 a day will be issued to property owners who ignore the law.
“This is a public safety issue,” Mayor Jim Douglas said. “People have been forced to walk in the streets because so many sidewalks are a mess, and that's dangerous.”
Even after several days of temperatures that reached into the 40s, some sidewalks were still covered in dirty, crusted snow and ice.
Residents are required to clear snow within 12 hours “after the cessation of any snow, sleet or freezing rain,” according to the borough's ordinance.
Before winter, a notice was placed on the sign at the bottom of First Street leading into the borough giving residents up to 48 hours to clear sidewalks.
The sign was recently updated with a “final warning” that residents will be fined if they fail to comply.
“I think the amount of time posted on the sign is more than generous,” Douglas said. “So I'm going to ask the police to start mailing out citations.”
Borough manager Adele Nehas said snow and ice covered “about half” of the sidewalks in the borough after the spate of frigid weather and snowfall earlier in the month.
“We had a number of complaints from residents, including parents whose children slipped while walking to catch their school bus,” she said. “It's a real problem.”
Nehas said the borough will try to assist people who cannot shovel snow.
“We understand that it can be difficult for some people to go out and shovel,” she said. “So if they have a legitimate hardship, we'll try to get somebody to help. But ultimately, it's one of the responsibilities of being a property owner.”
Irwin manager Mary Benko said the borough also has a snow removal ordinance.
“People have to clear their walks within 10 hours after it stops snowing,” she said. “But if the snow ends after 6 p.m., we give them until 10 a.m. the following day to do it.”
“We've had occasions in the past where we had to place a notice in somebody's door to remind them, but I don't recall that we've had to issue citations.”
Most residents comply, she said.
Irwin residents face a $600 fine if they are convicted of violating the borough's snow removal ordinance, Benko said.
“If they can't shovel, then it's up to them to find somebody to do the job,” she said. “It's the responsibility of the homeowner.”
Benko said she was not aware of any agencies or organizations available to help people who are physically unable to shovel their own sidewalks.
“Family members and neighbors usually know who needs help, so hopefully they are stepping up to do it,” she said. “If we ever get a call about somebody who doesn't have someone to shovel, we suggest that they contact one of the local churches to see if they assist.”
While North Huntingdon does not have a specific ordinance dictating how long residents have to clear snow from their properties, it is covered by other laws, said Joshua Andrykovitch, the township's code enforcement officer.
“Our property maintenance ordinances requires that all sidewalks, walkways, stairs, driveways and parking spots be kept in a proper state of repair and maintained free from hazardous conditions,” he said.
“A lot of our streets don't have sidewalks, so it's not really been an issue,” Andrykovitch said.
A North Huntingdon woman died after reportedly shoveling snow near her Herold Drive home on Feb. 14. The Allegheny County Medical Examiner's office ruled her death natural. Township manager John Shepherd said anyone who needs help should call, although the municipality does not grant exceptions for those who are unable to shovel.
“We hope that neighbors are helping others who can't do it themselves,” Shepherd said. “But if that's not possible and we get a call about someone unable to shovel, we would contact local social services agencies to see if they can help in some way.”