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Residents question sidewalk ordinance

Tempers flared and accusations flew at the Jan. 8 Osakis City Council meeting over the one topic we're all dealing with and wish we could avoid: Snow.

The sidewalk ordinance delegating snow removal responsibilities to homeowners and residents has been a topic of conversation at city council meetings for months. Who should remove the snow? Who should pay for the snow removal? Who owns the sidewalk?

Some residents in attendance expressed surprise that the ordinance issue isn't resolved by now.

"It's not appropriate to ask homeowners to remove the snow that they roll on there," a local homeowner said. "I don't have a problem removing what Mother Nature put on there but removing the packed snow from the road is ridiculous."

Community members who own property along County Road 82 and County Road 3, which don't have a boulevard between the road and the sidewalk, were present to share their experience with snow removal. They said the hard-packed snow from the plows getting pushed up on the sidewalks creates a real obstacle and is unreasonably difficult to move.

"I don't agree with how the city sidewalk ordinance is written," said the resident. "It's discriminatory. It only affects certain sidewalks. Public safety doesn't just happen within a certain block of town. It matters everywhere and this ordinance only applies to certain areas."

Residents living on East Lake Street put together a petition with 35 signatures opposing the ordinance, claiming that the snow coming off the lake created a disproportionately high burden on homeowners. The council agreed that the residents on East Lake Street shouldn't be required to remove the snow from their sidewalks the way that other residents in town are.

"I understand what you're saying," said council member Jim Snyder in response to the complaints. "But it's very complicated. What it's going to take is more people such as yourself to come and meet with the council. It's being talked about."

The way the current ordinance stands, community members who live on certain streets are required to remove the snow and ice from their sidewalks within 72 hours. If they fail to do so, the city will remove the snow and then bill the resident for the cost of the service.

Citizens at the city council meeting began to question the work ethic of the three full-time city crew members.

"When was the last time you did a ride-along?" a community member challenged mayor Keith Emerson, claiming that previous mayors used to do ride-alongs with the city crew and police departments.

"When was the last time YOU did one?" Emerson responded in raised tones.

"I'm not on the council," the community member retorted.

Questions about responsibility and ownership were raised. Residents claimed to have land surveys that showed personal property ending several feet away from the sidewalk.

"My property doesn't even butt up against the sidewalk," a resident said. "And still I have to clear it."

Because council member Randy Anderson was sick and couldn't attend the meeting, the council decided to table the issue and discuss it later. Snyder encouraged community members to get involved and join in the conversation.