Traverse City Record-Eagle

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November 27, 2013

Snowy walkways prompt concern

TRAVERSE CITY — Two city residents tired of snowy downtown sidewalks have had enough.

Ann Rogers and Grace Joppich asked the city commission to improve snow removal downtown. It’s an issue the two women have championed for 30 years with varying degrees of success, and they are hoping commissioners Gary Howe and Tim Werner will take up the banner.

“It seems like a petty thing but it’s not,” Rogers said. “There are more people with disabilities and some of us who are getting older who don’t like the slippery walks. This is important to them.”

The problem areas are the corners, some side streets, walks along parking lots, and merchants who don’t shovel their walks.

“Many of the merchants do an excellent job,” Rogers said. “Plamondon Shoes, they get out there when there are two snow flakes and clean it off.”

But it only takes one or two places along a street to create a barrier, she said.

“We have been working on this forever,” said Joppich, who contracted polio as a child and now uses a walker. Joppich said she served on a committee to address downtown accessibility back around 1980 and, while the city has made great progress, snow was an issue then and remains one today.

“If you use a wheelchair, or have a brace or other appliance ... one little thing can throw you,” she said.

Merchants and property owners are responsible for clearing the walks in front of and around their buildings, said Rob Bacigalupi, interim director of the Downtown Development Authority. The parking system also pays a contractor to clear the walks on all streets with parking meters after heavy snows, but that works only if “the stars align.”

The snow has to fall and pile up shortly after midnight so the contractor can come in and shovel the snow into the street, where it’s removed by city street crews before workers start to arrive downtown in the morning, Bacigalupi said.

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