GOSHEN — The topic of snow removal on city sidewalks took center stage during a special joint meeting of the Goshen City Council and Goshen Board of School Trustees Tuesday evening.
While the number of topics discussed at Tuesday night’s meeting included everything from updates on proposed city infrastructure projects to the success of the school corporation’s recently implemented reading camps, perhaps the issue that struck the most cords during the nearly two hour meeting was that of what should be done about the persistent problem of uncleared sidewalks within the city’s limits.
The discussion of uncleared sidewalks has been a particularly hot topic this year, especially when considering the recent need by Goshen Community Schools to expand its student walk zones due to a major reduction in its transportation budget resulting from the state’s property tax caps.
For his part, Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman said that while he would much rather the residents and businesses within the city’s limits choose to do the right thing and keep their sidewalks cleared for the kids, in the long run, it very well may take something with a little more teeth to get the job done.
“I hope we don’t have to get to a point of a snow shoveling ordinance, but every time we have a snow like we had recently, there are calls for a snow shoveling ordinance,” Kauffman said. “And once those calls build to a critical mass, people start to listen. And I’ve said, if it gets to the point where the council supports a snow shoveling ordinance, I’d probably sign it. But I’m not looking forward to that day, and I’m hoping that we can get better cooperation from residents, property owners and landlords than we currently have.”
School board member Bob Duell noted that in many cases he has heard of recently where sidewalks were not getting cleared regularly, it often had to do with rental properties where the renters may not be adequately prepared for or capable of clearing a large-scale snowfall.
“It seems to me that we should be putting some pressure on owners in serious cases,” Duell said, “that maybe they could do it when it’s more than 8, 10, 12 inches or something like that.”
Kauffman in responding to Duell’s suggestion noted that without an ordinance in place, there really isn’t anything the city can do to enforce such a degree.
“Other than pleading with them to do it, or pear pressure, we don’t have anything to enforce it,” Kauffman said.
One possible solution suggested by board member Cathie Cripe involved the creation or utilization of a clearing house-type system, where individuals unwilling or unable to clear their own sidewalks could call in and pay for someone to do it for them.
Longtime council member Everett Thomas wasn’t convinced, however, adding that he doesn’t see anything other than an enforceable ordinance working to get the sidewalks cleared in a timely fashion.
No clear decisions were made Tuesday night on exactly what should be done about the sidewalk issue.