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Spokane Valley gets closer to snow removal ordinance that includes fines

UPDATED: Wed., April 19, 2017

Sandra Lampe-Martin is a SCOPE volunteer who, because of a car accident, requires an electric wheelchair to get around. In her neighborhood, and most in the Edgecliff area, that meant riding in the streets, and not only avoiding traffic, but negotiating snow, mud and wet gravel earlier this year. (J. Bart Rayniak / The Spokesman-Review)
Sandra Lampe-Martin is a SCOPE volunteer who, because of a car accident, requires an electric wheelchair to get around. In her neighborhood, and most in the Edgecliff area, that meant riding in the streets, and not only avoiding traffic, but negotiating snow, mud and wet gravel earlier this year. (J. Bart Rayniak / The Spokesman-Review)

The city of Spokane Valley is working on a snow removal ordinance which may just be ready before the snow starts to fly again, as city attorney Cary Driskell dryly remarked.

On Tuesday, the Spokane Valley City Council got closer to formulating an ordinance that includes both a carrot and stick: lots of public education and fines if people don’t pay attention.

Within a 12-month period, the first two citations would be $51.25 each, and the third would be doubled to $102.50.

Driskell said the city will do its part to limit the amount of snow piled on sidewalks.

“We are getting rid of the bat wings on the plows, and we can slow them down near sidewalks.That should make a difference,” Driskell said.

Spokane Valley will also share resources on its website for people who need help clearing their sidewalks, and the ordinance is expected to hold excemptions for property owners over 65 or those who have physical disabilities.

Councilman Sam Wood asked how much is going to cost the city to “police all those sidewalks” and whether there’s enough staff.

Driskell said he assumed that hiring staff is out of the question, so it’s possible some staff will be shifted around internally.

Another question was whether Spokane Valley should be responsible for clearing sidewalks on streets labeled Safe Route to Schools and in commercial areas.

Driskell said about 80 miles of sidewalk in Spokane Valley falls in to this category.

Deputy Mayor Arne Woodard suggested asking custodial staff at the various schools to help out.

And finally some have complained that property owners with backyards that butt up to fences and public roads, should not be responsible for clearing a sidewalk they’d have to walk around the block to get to.

But city Councilwoman Pam Haley had enough of that argument.

“If you have a sidewalk adjacent to your property you should be required to clear it,” Haley said. “We shouldn’t charge everyone to have the snow removed from certain people’s property.”

And finally, there was agreement that it is the responsibility of apartment complexes and home owners associations to clear the sidewalks that surround their properties.

To assure help for those who legitimately need it, Councilman Caleb Collier suggested work crews from Geiger Correctional Facility could be hired.

“And maybe people who get a speeding ticket can have the option to work it off?” Collier said.

Driskell said that’s not a solution he will recommend as it carries too many liability risks for the city.

The City Council asked Driskell to find out the cost of enforcement and to report back at a future meeting.

Driskell was happy with the evening’s results.

“We are now getting pretty tight down to the issues we are dealing with,” Driskell said.

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