Snow Safety Summit: Next Steps

Syracuse is oftentimes the snowiest city in the United States. Even though we’ve embraced this title, we still haven’t figured out how to best handle everything snow related. We sometimes struggle to get side streets cleared after a snowfall. Some private plow operators leave snow in the streets and on sidewalks. Parked cars can prevent City plows from clearing narrow streets. And all sidewalks are not cleared of snow.

On February 15, we hosted a “Snow Safety Summit” to get public feedback and ideas about these issues, with our biggest focus on clearing sidewalks. We structured this event differently than past meetings. It was “open house” style and consisted of several different stations where people could weigh in on different winter related topics. Approximately 150 people attended the Summit, and we were able to collect valuable feedback that we have already sorted through. You can review the ideas, suggestions, and comments that we received on our open data portal, DataCuse.

 Residents at the Snow Safety Summit at Dr. Weeks Elementary School.

Residents at the Snow Safety Summit at Dr. Weeks Elementary School.

Here are the biggest takeaways from the Summit:

  1. Most people want the City to  help clear sidewalks. People we heard from prefer that the cost of this be covered by an assessment that is based on property frontage.

  2. People were in favor of a fee that would not only allow the City to clear snow from sidewalks, but also allow the City to conduct sidewalk maintenance and replacement.

  3. Citizens were strongly opposed to a “clear and bill” option in which the City would clear snow from sidewalks that had been complained about, and then bill the property owner.

  4. Participants want a better way to report problems with snow. This system should include a mechanism which tells people when the issue they reported has been resolved.

 Residents identifying problem areas for unclear sidewalks.

Residents identifying problem areas for unclear sidewalks.

 Residents providing feedback on the proposed solution of City Sidewalk Plows.

Residents providing feedback on the proposed solution of City Sidewalk Plows.

Even though the Summit is over, our work is not done. We will be working with the Mayor’s Office and other City Departments to develop and propose solutions to the snow challenge. Here are some of the options we will be evaluating:

  1. The city would provide sidewalk snow clearance on all streets - Under this model, the City would help clear snow from all sidewalks as a supplemental service to property owners, starting in high priority areas and then fanning out to the rest of the city. Property owners would ultimately still be responsible for the clearance of ice and snow from sidewalks. This approach would involve an assessment fee on property owners.

  2. The City would provide sidewalk snow clearance on prioritized sidewalks - Under this model, the City would help clear snow from prioritized zones as a supplemental service. These areas would include routes to school, business corridors, and areas with heavy pedestrian traffic. Property owners would ultimately still be responsible for the clearance of ice and snow from sidewalks. This approach would involve an assessment fee on property owners.

  3. The City would enhance its ordinance and license contractors - Under this model, the City would revise its current ordinance that requires property owners to clear their sidewalks. The updated ordinance would include a threshold and timeframe for when snow needed to be cleared. It would also include a fine. Additionally, the City would license or approve contractors that property owners could hire to clear their sidewalks. This approach would not involve an assessment fee.

  4. The City would develop a comprehensive sidewalk maintenance program - The poor condition of many sidewalks limits the ability to clear snow quickly and efficiently.  Under this model, the City would add an assessment fee that would fund sidewalk repairs and replacement or take a more comprehensive approach to requiring property owners to repair sidewalks on their properties.

Each of these options come with their own set of questions that still need to be answered.  Over the next several months, the City will be evaluating all of them, and proposing solutions to address snowy sidewalks. If you have any additional ideas or feedback let us know in the comments below!