Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Chief urges business owners to clear sidewalks

Editor | January 14, 2022 7:00 AM

After residents heeded calls to move their vehicles off of city streets ahead of plowing, Libby Police Chief Scott Kessel is hoping local business owners will follow suit with sidewalk clearing.

Pointing to the stretch of U.S. Highway 2 that runs through the municipality as particularly troublesome, Kessel said nearly none of the sidewalks are cleared. Under city code, the responsibility to remove “snow, ice, slush or mud” falls on the occupant of a building or, if the premises are vacant, the property owner.

Kessel acknowledged that state plows running along U.S. Highway 2 make the job more difficult, but stressed the public safety aspect of the ordinance.

“Unfortunately, it’s kind of an uphill battle where the state snowplows dump the snow,” he said. “But we also have to look at it from the public safety standpoint: People use that street a lot.”

Its often assumed that the highway corridor is a state responsibility, Kessel said. But in a letter dated back to 1987, the state Department of Highways reiterated that sidewalk maintenance falls under the purview of the municipality.

Kessel also urged business owners against pushing snow from parking lots and sidewalks into existing berms in the middle of the street. Downtown merchants with no other options are allowed to do so, but when a local store clears a parking lot into the street, it causes problems, Kessel said.

In an email sent to local news outlets highlighting snow removal troubles, Kessel stressed that his officers prefer not citing residents for running afoul of the rules. He reiterated that in a follow-up interview.

“We’re hoping to educate people and get some compliance,” Kessel said.

A recent reminder at a Libby City Council meeting for residents to move vehicles during snow events had shown some success, he said.

“I think the parking end of things … that’s coming along,” he said.

At the Jan. 3 meeting, Kessel told city councilors that his officers had issued 25 city ordinance violations and arranged for 18 tows. The city’s snow parking ban goes into effect each year on Nov. 1 and is applicable during snowstorms.