Whether it was shouting about slavery, presenting calculated averages or appealing to the Laramie City Council’s moral compass, Laramie residents doubled down Tuesday on their thoughts regarding proposed snow removal revisions.
A City Council public hearing for proposed changes to the city’s current sidewalk snow removal ordinances heated up quickly when Laramie resident John Rawls stepped up to the podium.
“Lincoln freed the slaves,” Rawls shouted at the council. “The 13th Amendment prohibits involuntary servitude, which includes forced labor. If you think you’re going to get away with ordering this 74-year-old Vietnam veteran to crawl out of my bed before 9 a.m. (in) the morning after it snows and get out there with my shovel to do the sidewalks, you have another thought coming to you.”
As written, the proposed changes to the current ordinance would remove residents’ requirement to clear snow within 24 hours of the end of a snow or ice event and replace the clause with a requirement to clear sidewalks of snow and ice by 9 a.m. the day after a snow or ice event has concluded.
Because the sidewalk snow removal requires property owners to clear their sidewalks in the interest of public safety, Rawls said it was in direct opposition with Wyoming statutes, which he said require the people using the sidewalks to clear the snow.
“You cannot require citizens of this city to go out (and) clear the sidewalks just because you’re too cheap to do it yourselves,” Rawls said.
While other residents came forward in support of the ordinance changes, some requested the changes be refined before the proposed revisions’ final reading, slated for 2018.
“I wish to say thank you to Brian (Forster) for answering my complaint about people not clearing the snow,” Laramie resident Susan Simpson said. “This is a good start. But I’m a little concerned about the 9 a.m. portion of the ordinance. Where I live, a lot of people are walking to school, and they do that around 8 a.m., so I think it should be a little earlier so the walkways are safe for them.”
Laramie resident Jasper Hunt said he liked the ordinance in general, but as a former nightshift worker, he thought the 9 a.m. requirement was unfair to people who work late shifts.
Laramie Planning Division Planning Manager Derek Teini said the 9 a.m. requirement was written into the proposed changes to encourage people to shovel their walks in the morning. But even if someone didn’t comply, the city’s only action for the first 24 hours after the 9 a.m. requirement would be to hang a notice on a properties entryway asking residents to clear the snow.
“We’re going to always give that person the chance to have the snow cleared,” Teini said. “Because that’s our real goal here — to get people to do the right thing and clear their walks.”
No fees are attached to the first notice, he said.
“In essence, you have 48 hours to clear off your sidewalks before any fee is imposed?” Councilor Dave Paulekas asked.
Teini confirmed residents would have 48 hours before the city could used the proposed abatement portion of the proposed changes to hire a contractor to clear the snow and charge the resident for the contractor’s time in addition to an administrative fee, which would scale in cost after each infraction.
“I would hope that in rethinking this ordinance, you consider inserting something about notifying the owner, not just posting something on a door,” Laramie resident William Moore said.
He added he would like to see the council target property owners with administrative fees instead of renters, who might not be invested enough in the community to consider the affect of not clearing snow.
“Almost all of the residences I have complained about are renters,” Moore said. “The owner should be clearly responsible, the owner should be notified.”
Paulekas said while the council would consider all public comments submitted on the topic, the ordinance changes were incapable of pleasing everyone, but still a step in the right direction.
“I can live in a community with no sidewalk shoveling and be perfectly happy, but the reality is I’m one person among 32,000,” he said. “I would challenge you to go to any community and find 100 percent of the sidewalks shoveled. What we’re doing tonight is better than what we had before, it’s more enforceable.”
The council approved the second reading of the proposed ordinance changes 6-2, with Mayor Andi Summerville and Councilor Klaus Hanson voting against and Councilor Pat Gabriel absent.