The snow stopped falling in Camp Hill long before the borough’s kids began their trek to school this morning. By this afternoon, when they began their walk home, sidewalks throughout town, by law, were supposed to be cleared.
But despite an ordinance requiring snow and ice to be removed from borough sidewalks within 8 hours after the end of a storm, walks on many properties around town remained unshoveled as of 4 this afternoon, a full hour after the deadline passed (the clock starts ticking at 7 a.m. for storms that end during the overnight hours).
A number of the uncleared walkways were along major thoroughfares such as Market, Chestnut, 29th and 24th streets, paths designated as preferred walking routes for students in the Camp Hill School District. Some of those were part of a recent taxpayer-funded $1million “safe routes to school” sidewalk and curb replacement project.
“We’ll go out today. We’ll try to get voluntary compliance,” said borough manager Gary Kline just after 8 this morning. Kline said borough council has directed him and his staff to go to homes to urge residents to shovel before taking any of the actions called for under the ordinance.
That law says the borough is authorized to clear the walks at the owner’s expense. It even calls for a 10-percent penalty to be added to the borough’s cost. The law also allows the homeowners to be issued a citation, with a maximum penalty of $300, plus costs, or up to 30 days in jail.
Enforcement is handled by the borough’s codes officer, not the police force.
But that law is rarely, if ever enforced. Kline said no citations have been issued thus far this winter. Yet a drive-around, far from exhaustive, tour of the borough Thursday afternoon, before the latest snow had started to fall, showed a number of places where the last storm had not been cleared, including some within a block of two of schools in the Camp Hill School District, which prides itself in being a “walking” district with no school bus services.
“It can be a big problem,” said schools superintendent Connie Kindler. “We do frequently hear from parents when they have concerns about unsafe conditions.”
When the district hears such reports, it contacts the borough to pass along the information. Kindler said the district enjoys a good, cooperative relationship with the borough. But she did not know what happens after the information gets passed along.
In some cases, the school district has had its maintenance staff go out and clear sidewalks near its school buildings when the homes were vacant and the sidewalks left unattended. Unlike the borough, though, the district has no legal recourse to seek reimbursement for those costs.
Kindler said the next borough-district joint newsletter will include a reminder to residents to remove snow and ice as soon as possible to ensure the safety of students walking to school.
“It is important sidewalks be cleared in a timely manner so our students can walk to school because that is what we prefer them to do,” Kindler said.