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.