Amherst enacts stiff snow shoveling fee

AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) — Lawmakers in Amherst have already moved to crack down on delinquent snow shovelers.

Starting immediately, not shoveling your sidewalk in Amherst could cost you even more than it has under previous ordinances. Amherst Town Council members on Tuesday night unanimously approved a resolution creating an "Enforcement Action Plan."

Deputy Supervisor Guy Marlette sponsored the resolution because he feels it's a pressing matter of public safety. "The problem of the sidewalks not being cleared in a timely manner, or not being cleared at all, is real. It's a safety issue. We have people walking on Maple Road, Sheridan Drive," Marlette noted.

MORE | Marlette proposed the resolution. News 4 spoke to him Monday

The town can now hire a private contractor to clear sidewalks that residents or businesses fail to shovel within 24 hours of snowfall, and add the cost to the home or business owner's tax bill.

"We talk all about neighborhoods wanting to work together, people should be good neighbors. You know what? If you're got 40 houses on a street, and two people say, 'I can't be bothered,' it is a problem. And it's an unfair situation," said Marlette.

Councilman Mark Manna added, "And we all know the problem. We see it all the time. And for the town, I think, to turn a blind eye and say that we're not going to enforce it because nobody's complained... I think we're putting people in danger."

"I think once we start sending a message, just like everything else in the town, we create a culture," said Manna. "And the culture's going to be, it's not going to be tolerated."

Although the plan passed unanimously, some council members had their reservations. Supervisor Dr. Barry Weinstein said he's not in favor of creating more work for the town or penalizing property owners.

"I would generally support the concept of an action plan, although I will not support anything [that] eventually reaises the town's responsibility or raises the town's costs, penalizes residents," Dr. Weinstein said.

"We have a system in place now where the Building Department responds to complaints and proactively looks at the neighborhoods where there are complaints," Dr. Weinstein continued.

Councilmember Barbara Nuchereno raised concerns about the elderly and disabled, who may not be physically capable of shoveling themselves. She doesn't want to see them penalized for something they cannot control.

"There are those people who just simply can't do it, despite their best efforts, who can't find someone [to shovel for them]. So we have to address the needy in our community as well," Nuchereno stated.

The old fine for not shoveling was $35 for residents and $250 for businesses. A private, on-call contractor could charge anywhere from $150 for residential service up to $450 to clear snow from a business. That's how much could be tacked onto the tax bills of those who chronically neglect to shovel.

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