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Published: Tuesday, 1/20/2009

Mayor of Perrysburg wants fines for scofflaws

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

If you don t shovel your sidewalk in Perrysburg, police could cite you for a minor misdemeanor.

It s a law that s been on the books for 25 years, though police say they can t recall ever writing a criminal citation for sidewalk scofflaws.

Now Perrysburg Mayor Nelson Evans wants to change the ordinance to make failing to shovel a civil infraction, punishable with a fine but not a criminal conviction.

To me, it s more of a property-maintenance-type issue which would fall more under zoning, Mr. Evans said. I m not real comfortable with my police officers issuing tickets for that particular thing. I think they ve got better things to do.

The mayor has asked City Administrator John Alexander to put together a proposal to change the city ordinance.

When he mentioned it to city council recently, Councilman Maria Ermie was among those who commented that she didn t know failing to clear your sidewalk was a criminal offense.

Under the municipal code, when sidewalks are not cleared within 30 hours, the city may clear the walk and charge the resident for the service and the resident may be charged with a minor misdemeanor.

Perrysburg Police Lt. Dan Paez said he s not sure whether most residents are aware they could be cited, but he said police typically are able to resolve snow and ice complaints without resorting to writing citations.

When we issue warnings or notify them they need to clear the walks, that seems to take care of the problems, Officer Paez said.

Frequently the properties in question are owned by elderly or disabled residents who cannot safely clear their sidewalks, Lieutenant Paez said.

Usually if they re notified of the problem, they ll call someone to help, he said.

Mayor Evans said he would like to see the city develop a partnership with local youth or church organizations that would provide volunteers to clear sidewalks for the elderly and disabled in town.

If we get a call abut someone s sidewalk not being done, instead of having our people go out and clean the sidewalk and bill them or get a list of snow removal companies to do it, I thought it d be a great project for the youth of our community, he said. Give them something to do and maybe raise some money.

The mayor said it s yet to be seen who would enforce the ice and snow ordinance if the offense becomes a civil infraction.

We ve got a zoning inspector. Whether he would have enough time to do that we ll have to fine tune that.

They mayor and Mr. Alexander said the change in the law likely would not occur in time for this winter.

It s still important, as the mayor pointed out, that residents clear their sidewalks of snow and ice, Mr. Alexander said. The decriminalization should not be linked to not having residents have the burden of clearing snow and ice. That will remain.



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