Grab a shovel, and get out there soon to shovel your sidewalk.
The timing of Wednesday’s snow, with more of the white stuff coming, means a ticking clock for Omaha residents who want to avoid getting a sidewalk-shoveling bill from the city.
A city ordinance requires people to shovel local sidewalks within 24 hours after major streets have been cleared of snow. The clock resets after each snowfall, officials said.
Those who don’t clear their walks risk neighbors reporting them to Public Works or the Mayor’s Hotline. Slow shovelers get a written warning to clear snow before the city has the work done and bills them. The city will leave a note on a door or put the notice on a stake at an empty lot.
Omaha sent out its first written notices of the season Tuesday to 25 to 30 property owners. The city has not yet sent out a private contractor to clear sidewalks, Public Works says.
If the city asks a contractor to clear the walk, people can expect to pay hundreds of dollars.
Sidewalk snow removal contractors say they have to charge that much because it takes special equipment and a lot more time to remove ice that forms over packed snow that’s left on sidewalks too long.
But the amount that Omaha residents pay should be less than last year because of a change in the law and cheaper bids from private contractors hired to do the work. City Council member Aimee Melton proposed the change that requires Public Works to charge the market rate for scooping private sidewalks.
Her proposal was intended to address a situation in which a snow contractor charged 184 property owners a combined $174,117 in 2018-19. The city billed most homeowners between $300 and $700, and home and business owners with longer sidewalks were asked to pay hundreds more.
To keep people shoveling their own walks, the new ordinance also added fines for repeat offenders who don’t shovel their walks of up to $300 per offense.