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Coalition discusses snow removal ordinance

Madeline Buckley | Thursday, January 27, 2011

Student body president Catherine Soler asked city officials to help find solutions to students’ issues with a snow ordinance that mandates residents shovel sidewalks within 24 hours of snowfall at Wednesday’s Community/Campus Advisory Coalition (CCAC) meeting.

The ordinance was recently passed to reinforce an old ordinance. South Bend residents can face a $15 – $25 fine if they do not clear sidewalks in the allotted time.

Soler said students living off campus realize that they must comply with city laws, but she said some students are concerned with snowfall that happens during school breaks.

“We understand that moving off campus, we have to be part of the community,” Soler said.

But she suggested implementing a system where students could register their house to alert the city that it will be vacant over a break.

“With the ordinance, when students are on break, is there a way their houses won’t be fined?” Soler asked. “What if they’re away for the weekend?”

Coalition members were open to looking for ways to accommodate students on school breaks, and some suggested starting a volunteer program where willing city residents would shovel walks for those who can’t do it themselves in the 24 hours. This would benefit walks for vacant houses, and people that can’t physically shovel.

“We can brainstorm. We know this is something that is a work in progress and we’re trying to come up with an answer,” Common Council Attorney Kathleen Cekanski-Farrand said.

But South Bend Mayor Stephen Luecke said a volunteer program for shoveling walks could hold some liability for the city if, for example, a volunteer was injured on the job.

Tim Sexton, Notre Dame’s assistant vice president for Public Affairs, said students should work with their landlords so the landlords are responsible for shoveling the walks during breaks.

“It’s important for that to be in the lease,” he said.

Sexton also said students who leave for break, but leave a car parked on the street of an off-campus house, have faced problems with city snow laws because the street around the car cannot be plowed.

He suggested that students use the parking garage at Eddy Street Commons. For a fee, students can leave their car in the garage for the month of winter break. Sexton said about 100 students took advantage of that over break.

Soler said students should be mindful of the ordinance, but she hopes to work with landlords and the city to find a solution to student fines incurring over breaks.

The Coalition also addressed security of student homes over the winter break. Uniform Division Chief Jeffrey Walters said the South Bend Police Department staffed extra patrols around student houses over winter break. He said the department didn’t note an increase in break-ins over break, although he said the Clover Village apartment complex, formerly Turtle Creek, saw several recent burglaries.

“We want to have a police presence out there while students are away,” Walters said.

The Coalition will meet again in March.