Council to consider changes to snow and ice ordinance

Residents shoveled paths and used snowblowers along sidewalks in Newburyport’s South End after the Dec. 17 snow storm. RICHARD K. LODGE/ Staff photo

NEWBURYPORT — An amendment to Chapter 12 of the city’s municipal code regarding snow and ice removal, including how residents are fined for offenses related to the ordinances and who distributes those fines, will go before the City Council Monday.

Residents are not permitted to throw ice or snow into the street, as dictated in Section 12-7 of the municipal code. Tenants or occupants of any building or lot of land in the city must also remove all snow from sidewalks within six hours of snow stopping during the daytime. If snow stops falling at night, people have until noon to clear the sidewalks bordering any property they occupy, as stated in Section 12-52.

On Tuesday, the Neighborhoods & City Services Committee finalized an ordinance to amend these sections to clarify who distributes and keeps track of these fines and whether exceptions will be made. The ordinance is cosponsored by Councilor at-large Afroz Khan and Ward 4 Councilor Christine Wallace. 

The committee considered adding a written warning for the first offenses to these sections, but decided to keep a $50 fine for initial and subsequent offenses.

Committee members, Mayor Donna Holaday and officials from the city’s Department of Public Services recognized that warnings would be difficult to track, so the enforcers of these sections will be allowed to use their discretion when deciding whether to give someone a fine or a warning.

The amendment also dictates that the enforcers include any police officer, the Board of Health director, director of the DPS or their designees when it comes to throwing snow and ice into the streets. 

“There are people who are out there snow blowing into the street and have gotten into altercations with some of the plow drivers, as a result of them being told,” Holaday said. 

By allowing designees from the DPS to step in to levy fines, these plow drivers now have someone to call to handle these situations, the mayor explained.

For the removal of snow from sidewalks, Holaday said the DPS will be too busy clearing roads and ways. Instead, she suggested that the parking clerk and their designees enforce sidewalk snow removal.

Committee members, as well as the mayor, DPS officials and other city councilors present at the meeting, also discussed who fines would be given to if it’s a contractor putting snow or ice into the street.

In keeping consistent with similar situations in the past, they decided the property owner would be responsible. This is where discretion would be allowed. If an enforcer of this ordinance found that the contractor was new and just did not know what was allowed in the city, they might give a warning for the first offense. The property owner, tenant or occupant of that property would be responsible for any offenses though.

Wallace also recognized that there has been a shortage of contractors, and did not want to put a “burden” on those property owners who might not have many options with contractors. 

As part of this proposed ordinance, the Council on Aging in collaboration with Newburyport Youth Services “shall annually prepare lists of persons available to provide snow clearing assistance either for a fee or on a volunteer basis.”

This will provide residents with information regarding both contractors in the area, as well as services such as the Snow Angels Program, which provides free snow removal for seniors citizens or those with physical disabilities. 

The Neighborhoods & City Services Committee —  which includes Councilor at-large Barry Connell, who chairs the committee, Ward 5 Councilor Jim McCauley and Wallace — unanimously voted to send this before the City Council for review with the recommendation that these amendments are approved.

The City Council meets remotely via Zoom webinar on Monday at 7:30 p.m. For the agenda and information on how to access the meeting, visit www.cityofnewburyport.com.

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