Though this winter isn't quite over, Marysville officials already are looking for ways to keep sidewalks clear and safe for schoolchildren and other pedestrians when snow falls again.
Next winter, residents can expect plenty of information from the city about taking care of their sidewalks.
Code enforcement officer Derek Hutchinson spoke Monday, March 10, to Marysville City Council's Public Safety Committee about how other communities monitor snowy sidewalks and how Marysville handles the process.
City code outlines residents' duty to keep sidewalks maintained and clean. It states, "No owner or occupant of abutting lands shall fail to keep the sidewalks, curbs or gutters in repair and free from snow, ice or any nuisance. Whoever violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor."
Hutchinson said the code is similar to other cities' and is fashioned from Ohio Revised Code 723.011.
A nine-year member of the Code Enforcement Officials Association Board of Trustees, he said officers across the state all cite the same problems with enforcing compliance.
"The most success I've had in the past is proactive education. Make people aware," he said.
" The best way would be to start in the fall, promoting. We have many outlets now with Facebook, the newspapers and utility billing. We have multiple ways of getting the information out," Hutchinson said.
He also suggested getting information to local homeowners associations and schools, then repeating the message before, during and after winter storms.
City Administrator Terry Emery suggested meeting with school officials to make sure there are procedures to address the district's sidewalks.
Emery and Hutchinson acknowledged the need to clear sidewalks on city property.
"One of the things we have to make sure is that we're covering all the sidewalks we ultimately have a responsibility for, and there's a lot," Emery said.
"At the end of the day, depending on snow levels, it could take the city almost a week to get to some of these locations, just based on the manpower that we are putting into the priority areas," he said.
Hutchinson proposed a three-step complaint procedure:
* When a complaint is received, the city should get the location of the snow-covered sidewalk. There must be two or more inches of snow, and the responsible party should have 48 hours to clear the walkway.
* Verify the complaint within one business day through a site visit by city staff.
* Once a complaint is verified, a door hanger would be left at the affected property. The notice will inform the resident about the complaint and ask the resident to clear the snow. It will also give tips on safe snow removal and provide city contact information for questions or possible assistance.
Emery said certain situations must be considered, such as people on vacation.
Committee chairman Mark Reams suggested homeowners should plan ahead, much like asking a neighbor to feed the cat while they're away.
"We have to start somewhere. We can't go from zero to 100 percent enforcement in one step," Reams said.
Hutchinson said it is difficult to enforce the current code with only one officer and more than 107 miles of sidewalk.
"The code as it stands now makes it a minor misdemeanor. It also talks about curbs and gutters," Law Director Tim Aslaner said. "If we took that next step and were to get into actually enforcing ... one path to look into is extending the Exterior Property Maintenance Code into snow removal.
"If we can't get compliance, we do it ourselves or hire a third-party contractor to do it and then we bill, and if it doesn't get paid, we assess the property owner's taxes, as is done with mowing of grass."