Traverse City Record-Eagle

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December 5, 2013

Sidewalk shoveling debate heats up

TRAVERSE CITY — Ben Hansen and Chris Bazzett left their Traverse City home for a short walk downtown on the busiest shopping weekend of the year, but they had to walk down the middle of the street to get there.

Hansen has lived along State Street for about a dozen years and had grown used to the city clearing the public sidewalks within three days of a snow event. That service slipped over the past few years, and after Thanksgiving most city sidewalks were impassable and forced pedestrians into the street.

“We say we want to be a walkable community and this just seems counter-intuitive to me,” Hansen said. “Somebody is going to get hurt, and it’s just going to be a shame.”

Carol Tompkins-Parker uses alleys to get downtown because, unlike the sidewalk, the city plows alleys.

“This is a safety issue, and it isn’t right at all,” Tompkins-Parker said. “I shouldn’t have to walk down the alleys at night.”

Several city commissioners acknowledge being buried in residents’ sidewalk snow complaints after the year’s first major snowstorm. Commissioners will discuss snow removal during a study session Monday at 7 p.m. in the Governmental Center.

“This is our first ... snow and right off the bat people are really jumping on us,” Commissioner Jim Carruthers said. “We have six more months of this weather ... and we have to do a better job.”

Dave Green, the city’s director of public works, cites fewer workers as the main reason walks didn’t get cleared following six straight days of snow that led to Thanksgiving. The city used to have 18 people in the streets department, 14 on day shift and two each working evenings and midnight. In the past 10 people piloted plow trucks, while four others were available to dig into sidewalks work.

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