Helper residents approach city with snow ticket concerns
|The majority of Castle Valley residents continue to enjoy the wet white scenery created by recent winter storms. But local police officers have already issued citations to Helper citizens who have failed to comply with the city's snow removal ordinance and concerns regarding the situation surfaced at last week's council meeting.|
The heavy snow in December and early January brought needed moisture to the Carbon County area.
But the winter storms also created a lot of work for local residents who are responsible for removing the white stuff from sidewalks.
In Helper, the winter storms resulted in citations issued by city police to residents failing to remove snow from properties located inside the city limits.
"I am here not only speaking for myself, but for a committee of Helper citizens," stated Jerry Hamaker during the Helper City Council last Thursday. "We request that the city vacate the snow tickets that were issued in early January because the enforcement of the sidewalk cleaning ordinance was arbitrary."
While some citizens were issued tickets for not cleaning sidewalks, other residents were approached and told to clear the snow because citations were being given out by police officers, claimed Hamaker.
"One person in our neighborhood was actually shoveling the walk when they saw the police car go by and they were written up, too," said Hamaker. "They got the ticket in the mail even though they were working at it."
Hamaker explained that the situation began when his family went on vacation during the holidays. The resident said he returned from that trip on Jan. 5 and a citation showed up in his mailbox on Jan. 7.
"The city gives people who have their cars parked on the street overnight warnings, so why shouldn't they do the same thing with sidewalk cleaning?" asked Hamaker.
Mayor Joe Bonacci responded by indicating that he did not think the enforcement was arbitrary and he felt the ordinance was important.
"We are looking out for the public's safety here," pointed out the mayor. "If people fall down and get hurt, it becomes the homeowner's liability. What should we do as a city; rescind the ordinance?"
The best way to resolve the problem with the citations that have been issued may be to hash the matter out in court, suggested Councilman Chuck Buchanan.
"The council can't legally do anything with the citations, only the court can do that," said Buchanan. "The city attorney is seated right here. Maybe he can throw them out, but the council can do nothing about it."
Some discussion involving people in attendance at the meeting followed about senior citizens who cannot physically remove snow.
"We realize that removing the snow is a problem for some of our older citizens," stated the mayor. "If they will call Helper City Hall, we can make provisions to help them."
In addition, the mayor revealed that he had been contacted by many people who were upset because the snow on numerous walks in the city had not been cleared by local residents.
"What I would like to see is that the council review this ordinance and put some kind of provision in it that says the police have to give people a warning first," said Hamaker.
Addressing snow removal tickets that have already been issued, Helper City Attorney Gene Strate explained the procedure of processing the citations will work.
"If someone pleads guilty and pays the fine, I never see it," pointed out Strate. "The tickets only come to me if the recipient pleads not guilty."
"But I actually received so many of these citations from this winter that I charged everyone," added the city attorney. "When we get into court, we can figure out how to settle this."
The question of city crews pushing snow onto walks also surfaced during the discussion. Councilman Tony Gonzales, who is over the street department, explained that the crews do the best they can and that sometimes it takes a couple of days to get to all the roads.
As for pushing snow onto sidewalks that is an age old question every homeowner seems to face at one time or another.
The snowstorm hit local residents by surprise, said one citizen attending the city council meeting.
The resident applauded city workers for doing "a heck of a job."
The citizen also said city crews had pushed snow into two driveways he had cleaned, but he knew the workers need to put it somewhere.
At the conclusion of the discussion, the Helper council members agreed to review the city's snow removal ordinance.
An unrelated concern faced by the Helper council during last week's public meeting involved a citizen who claimed his neighborhood has sewer backup problems that have existed for years.
"We have had a problem with the sewer on Second East for at least three years," indicated Larry Ganser. "The main line is a six inch pipe and it isn't big enough to handle the newer houses that were put up above us."
Ganser described odors in his home that purportedly makes his wife sick.
The resident also told the city officials about his neighbors who reportedly have had sewage backing up into their basements.
"The city's been great to come and clear the line a number of times, but there is a hump in the road there and I think the line has a high place in it, too much for the flow to go over properly," stated Ganser.
"The city should have never issued building permits for those new homes," lamented Bonacci. "We need to correct this problem. They need a new line."
The group discussed the options and one city council members asked why local officials had not heard about the problem before last week.
"People quit complaining because nothing was being done about it," claimed Ganser's wife. "During the summer, we can open the windows, but now ... well you need to come up and experience it to understand it."
The council members indicated that Helper city officials would look into the problem and determine what could be done.