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Should Natick Have a Sidewalk Shoveling Law?

Even a few days after the Blizzard of 2013, there is still a large amount of snow on the sidewalks, making it difficult for people to walk.

Class was back in session here in Natick yesterday, and while the snow might have been plowed on the sidewalks in the immediate vicinity of the schools, in most parts of Natick there was a lot of snow on the sidewalk, making it difficult, if not impossible, to walk.

Many towns have local bylaws when it comes to shoveling the sidewalk. Natick has no such law, according to Town Administrator Martha White.

Marlborough has a local law which states that a property owner must clear the snow on the abutting sidewalk within 12 hours after the flakes stop falling. The penalty can be a $50 fine.

One problem that some towns have had with laws related to shoveling is when it comes to elderly or other people who are not physically able to shovel large amounts of snow like the two feet we just got.

Conversely, if people aren't forced to shovel the sidewalks, will the snow get cleared? If not, this could make it unsafe for people walking, especially children who walk to school.

So what do you think about this issue? Do you think Natick should have a law that requires people to shovel the snow on the sidewalk by their homes? Tell us in the comments section below.

Amanda Elkin February 13, 2013 at 11:41 AM
Absolutely. I witnessed middle school kids being forced to walk home from their bus stop ON route 16 yesterday afternoon, sharing the non-existent shoulder with the traffic, due to the lack of sidewalks.
Dgriffnatick February 13, 2013 at 12:43 PM
The bigger issue is private contractors plowing driveways who push the snow onto the sidewalks. Thought there was a law against that. Ever see one getting ticketed?
Cochituate1 February 13, 2013 at 01:23 PM
Absolutely not. The sidewalks are a public facility and the town should maintain it's own property. The government should not conscript its citizens to perform manual labor on public property without compensation. Those private plow drivers who plow public streets get paid by the town--why should I have to shovel the town's sidewalks for free? If the town can force you to shovel its sidewalks, what's next? Can they force parents to "volunteer" as janitors in the schools? Can they demand that I mow the lawn at the town hall?
Frank Foss February 13, 2013 at 02:21 PM
There is also the liability issue, which in this day adn age is huge. Does the property owner now assume all liability? The town should be doing perfoming functions that the individual cannot perform or is unduly burdened in having to do so.
Cochituate1 February 13, 2013 at 02:33 PM
Frank: I agree with you on the liability concern. But regarding the "unduly burdened" test, I disagree. That is a slippery slope open to interpretation, subjectivity and abuse. For example, aside from the concep of being forced by the government to perform labor at no charge, I would not be "unduly burdened" by a requirement that I sweep the floors of the town hall one Saturday every year. A few hours' work each year sweeping floors isn't so bad. But to concede that the government has such power is to have given up your liberty.
Hera February 13, 2013 at 03:08 PM
Shoveling snow is hard work and not all people can do it. As you can see, most of people hire others to clean their driveway, should they hire to clean the public sidewalk? I'm sorry but I spent most of the weekend shoveling, my back is in so much pain, just to get the car out to go to work the next day.
Karen February 13, 2013 at 03:10 PM
No. We pay taxes for road plowing and the small plow that does sidewalks. I do not think it is lawful to force someone to clean off public access paths without compensation or to force the elderly or those with back issues to pay someone else to do so. The sidewalks were cleaned in a timely manner. During the blizzard no one needed to be outside walking around. It is bad enough that we are formed to purchase trash bags from the town when we aleardy pay taxes to support trash collection. Playing these kinds of games just to avoid calling for a tax increase is not fooling anyone.
Frank Foss February 13, 2013 at 03:22 PM
Cochituate1, I don't disagree with your floor sweeping example. However, unduly burden can be interpreted otherwise to mean that those having sidewalks, who are limited in number to the whole, are responsible for the entire burden. Such is unduly burdensome to expect a few to toil for the many just becasue of the property they own. I think we're in agreement, but without agreeing to any exceptions criteria. Karen, yes, it seems to be lawful based on the AG's approval of other municipal laws as such. But, what unintended consiquence does the law create is my concern. As is seems is your adn Natalie's concern too. Yup, we pay for it. It should continue to be done from those funds.
Susan Thompson February 13, 2013 at 03:36 PM
Absolutely not! It's my understanding that property owners do not own the sidewalk. Also, the town plows the snow up on the sidewalks on our street and so do the local plows.
Pat Marr February 13, 2013 at 04:21 PM
People who live on well-plowed roads could not possibly shovel walks of hard-packed snow, sand & salt banks on walks created by town plowing. And, since it is nearly impossible to find someone to shovel easier paths, etc., I would assume that there is no supply of people willing to tackle this job. One would need a backhoe to do the job, and many of us could not afford to pay for that service. So I, for one,could not comply with such a law, even if it existed. P.S. Check out rhabdomyolycis. I learned about this the hard way after recent blizzard.
Stephanie Hall February 13, 2013 at 04:35 PM
Absolutely not! However, I would suggest that the town does something about plowing the sidewalks sooner. It seems that they are always the last to get plowed. I understand the logic but I thought it was obsurd that by Sunday night, barely any of the sidewalks throughout the town were plowed. I think that the town should place an equal emphasis in plowing the major sidewalks as they do the major roads. (Major sidewalks being those that are used for walking to all schools and dowtonw). School was cancelled on monday because many sidewalkws were still full of snow. If they had made these sidewalks a priority, then it would allow kids to get to school and elimating the need for parents to miss work because their child is home. I also noticed that the sidewalk plowing did not start until 7pm on Sunday, when there was no plowing acitivty happening the entire day. I love our town but it seems that these sidewalks are always last on the list. This has a very large and downstream negative affect on the majority of the town.
Frank Foss February 13, 2013 at 04:52 PM
Agreed NatickMom. I do however believe that the magnitude of the storm and the hours spent on Friday and Saturday played into the DPW staff's availability on Sunday to clear the sidewalks.
NorthWest Natick February 13, 2013 at 05:01 PM
Many cities that I have lived in have sidewalk access laws. Often, I am one of the few on my block to clear their sidewalks. This year, however, the snow got ahead of me, as did the plows, and I am now unable to clear the sidewalks. Still, I believe that it is my responsibility. The town could not possibly clear all the sidewalks in Natick, not without incurring budget-breaking costs in labor and equipment. Thor people, above, who are most adamant about it being the responsibility of others (e.g. the town) are likely the same ones who rail against each and every fee and tax.
Cochituate1 February 13, 2013 at 05:44 PM
NW Natick: If you're referring to me, I don't rail against every fee and tax. I support the pay-as-you-throw trash bag fee as a good incentive to encourage recycling and to get people to pay for the services they use. You throw away more trash, you pay more--unlike when the trash bags are free and the cost is hidden in your property tax bills. My point is this: The sidewalks are public property, just like the school buildings and the town hall and the police cars. The town has no right to force me to shovel their sidewalks, just as they have no right to force me to go to the police station on Saturdays and do oil changes on the police cruisers. Same thing. I'll agree to shovel the town's sidewalks for free just as soon as I can charge a toll for every pedestrian who walks on the sidewalks.
MJardin February 13, 2013 at 06:25 PM
How about an incentive program? Clear your sidewalk, submit a photo (with a picture of the current newspaper or some other date verification), and be given a cash rebate by the town. This wouldn't clear ALL the sidewalks, but it would clear more than are being cleared now.
Michael Barrett February 13, 2013 at 09:30 PM
Agreed. Taxes in Natick have gone up a lot over the years and the "services" have gone down. Trash was free, now you pay, sports for students was free, now you pay A LOT, riding the school bus was free, now you pay, etc. The tax has plenty of money to hire people. Maybe the should fight the unions and allow more temporary hiring, etc. Maybe we don't need the dozens of extra school admin positions, people who make quite a bit of money and they are not necessary. Natick has a spending problem they should fix.
Michael Barrett February 13, 2013 at 09:39 PM
How many DPW and other plow workers were working Friday during the day? My guess is most or all of them. By 5pm there was 2 inches of snow, only 1 inch by 2pm. Everyone knew that was what would happen too. So why were those people wasting gas and their energy for no reason. They should have been told to stay home and sleep then come in at 5 or 6 pm. With any storm more than 12 inches, you know the plowing will take 20 hours or more straight. So instead of the 20 hrs starting at 5 or 6pm, those plow workers were probably spent by 6am saturday and the storm wasn't even finished. They make stupid decisions all the time.
Michael Barrett February 13, 2013 at 09:45 PM
Natick can and should clear the sidewalks. There are many areas in south natick and near weston/wayland that don't even have sidewalks. Why don't teachers shovel walks? There are literally hundreds of them and if the are getting paid anyway, they should grab a shovel or use a snowblower. They already get over 3 months a year off and get paid very highly for their ability. It'd be for the children, so teachers should do their fair share.
Fresh February 14, 2013 at 02:27 PM
@Michael, Do you even live in Natick? I thought it was Reading? Why are you commenting on Natick issues?
Michael Barrett February 14, 2013 at 03:36 PM
Neighbor - You are making assumptions. An article like this can only be commented on if you live in the town? That's rather close minded of you.
Fresh February 14, 2013 at 03:46 PM
No not close minded at all Michael but you speak about Natick as if you live here and have actual knowledge of town issues when in fact you don't. You talk about Taxes going up and up and services going down. You don't even live here but you make is sound as if you do. I think that is misleading. Maybe you should worry about Reading issues that actually effect you. You complained about a firefighters funeral closing 135 in Natick, a town you don't live in and a street closing that in no way impacted you so why even comment on these things? I can see commenting on general topics but to get involved in town issues that in no way impact you is ridiculous. You will never see me comment on a road closing in Reading! I that what happens when you get to be in your mid 60's you worry about others problems?
Fresh February 14, 2013 at 03:49 PM
I need to know Michael how does plowing of sidewalks in Natick effect you? It doesn't so your comments are invalid.
Michael Barrett February 14, 2013 at 05:47 PM
I thought I was clear In the first reply, but you are obviously thick. I DO NOT LIVE IN READING. Got it.
Michael Barrett February 14, 2013 at 05:49 PM
Where do You live? Natick? For how long?

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