Given the lack of snow this winter in Evanston, concerns about shoveling sidewalks have largely melted away — but a new plan next door in Chicago could revive interest in having the city take on sidewalk snow shoveling chores.

A group called Better Streets Chicago wants sidewalk snow and ice removal to become a municipal service.

And Block Club Chicago reports they’ve persuaded Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) to introduce in Chicago’s City Council Wednesday an ordinance to establish a pilot city-run sidewalk shoveling program.

As in Evanston, a Chicago ordinance currently requires building owners to clear sidewalks near their properties. But even with $500 fines, Villegas says, the plowing often doesn’t get done.

“Instead of trying to nickel-and-dime people, I think it’s best the city takes over this service,” he told Block Club.

Wilmette is among the communities that already have a sidewalk snow shoveling program. The village says it plows sidewalks near school zones on school days after a snowfall of two inches or more and all residential sidewalks after a four-inch snowfall.

In Rochester, New York, the city still requires property owners to remove snow, but provides what it describes as a “supplemental service” for 878 miles of sidewalks after a snowfall of four inches or more.

Rochester pays for its sidewalk snow plowing with what it calls “an embellishment fee” on property tax bills that’s based on a property’s street frontage.

Villegas says he’s gotten support for the pilot program from “more than 10” other alders on the 50-member Chicago City Council.

Uncleared sidewalks are seen as a special concern for older residents and persons with disabilities, making the service an equity issue, according to Better Streets Chicago activists.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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