Area residents and business owners who haven't cleared their sidewalks from the Dec. 19 snowstorm shouldn't wait for Mother Nature to do it for them.
Spokesmen for the La Vista and Bellevue police departments said Thursday that dozens of people in those cities are being warned to scoop their walks or be prepared to pay the cost of having someone else do it.
Tim O'Bryan, construction engineer for the City of Omaha, estimated that 200 to 300 people have received notices reminding them of “their civic duty” to clear their walks.
“We've kind of been watching the weather, but there's not a lot of melting going on,” O'Bryan said. “There's a very good chance that next week we'll be putting a contractor on the streets to clear these sidewalks.”
Omaha, like most cities in the metropolitan area, requires snow to be cleared within 24 hours after a storm passes. If the snow isn't cleared, warning notices can be issued. And if the city handles the shoveling itself, bills for the work are sent out.
Bellevue Police Lt. Tom Dargy said more than 50 warning notices have been issued in that city. La Vista Police Sgt. Bryan Waugh said at least a dozen warnings have been made there.
Dargy said Bellevue already has cleared five sidewalks.
After the city sends out a bill for the work, the person has 30 days to pay, Dargy said. If they don't pay, the city can issue a citation and a fine.
Waugh said civilian code enforcers who work for the police department are moving across La Vista speaking to residents whose walks are snow covered. If officials are unable to speak to the resident or business owner, they leave a notice on the door.
“We're not out to hammer people, but our sidewalks do need to be cleared,” Waugh said. “Typically, the places that still need to be cleaned up are vacant houses and the homes of the elderly or special needs people.”
Most cities try to work with those who cannot shovel the walks or afford to pay someone to do the work.
“If we learn that someone is having a problem getting their walks cleared, we will contact churches and other volunteer organizations,” Waugh said. “Sometimes, we have Sarpy (County) juveniles who need to do community service clear the snow.”
Some cities, such as Papillion and Omaha, rely on citizen calls to locate homes and businesses that need shoveling. Darren Carlson, spokesman for the City of Papillion, said Papillion had no complaints as of Thursday.
“The vast majority of the time, people just need a polite reminder,” Carlson said. “The recurring challenge is to clear rental properties and vacant homes, but we're very lucky here because we actually get good compliance.”
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