Snow removal talk heats up commission chambers

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published October 14, 2015

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ROYAL OAK — Although the aroma of cinnamon sticks and pumpkin spice lattes are at the forefront of people’s thoughts, soon snow will cover city sidewalks.

City commissioners resumed their discussions Oct. 5 on the issue of snow removal, with some hoping to move forward with a resolution toward keeping sidewalks clear.

But when cost estimates provided by City of Royal Oak Management Analyst/Grants Coordinator Kayla Barber-Perotta were presented for different scenarios of enforceable snow removal, the high cost had some commissioners wondering why they were so inflated.

Commissioner Kyle DuBuc questioned if the cost estimates were so high as to “scare away” the commissioners from the issue.

Data reported to the commission divided the city into eight priority zones covering 53.4 miles of sidewalk, including 11 Mile through 14 Mile roads, Crooks and Rochester roads, Main Street and Woodward Avenue.

Based on the clearance models that the city administration recommended, the costs could range anywhere from $39,000 to $215,000, including contracted snow removal for sidewalks in the priority zones, along with invoicing and code enforcement.

The city also would have to draft and enforce an ordinance to give the administration the authority to send invoices to property owners who received unsolicited plowing.

“How much do we spend?” said Mayor Jim Ellison. “And how much do we restrict with an ordinance to comply with the desire to have every (sidewalk on a) street cleared?”

Ellison said the talks over city involvement in snow removal started when a resident spoke before council in the spring to complain that she couldn’t walk to the bus stop on 11 Mile Road. Other walkers in the 11 Mile Road corridor had been seen walking in the roadway because of impassible sidewalks.

Ellison said he thinks the commission needs to zero in on what needs to be done and direct the city staff to the specific information that the commissioners want. He asked the commissioners to give their specific questions to staff, and staff will report back at a future meeting.

Ellison said, in some cases, he worries they are getting “a little carried away.”

“The point is that it is a serious issue,” said Commissioner Jeremy Mahrle. “Several of us up here have stated numerous times that we want this to be a walkable city 12 months a year, not eight months a year.”

DuBuc said he would like to know what other cities are paying and how they are dealing with snow removal.

“It’s unacceptable to pride ourselves on being a walkable, liveable, accessible city and have, at least, major thoroughfares impassible for half the year,” DuBuc said.

DPS Director Greg Rassell said Royal Oak is unique in that in some of the priority districts, the sidewalks abut the streets and a back-and-forth ends up ensuing between plows pushing snow into the sidewalks and shovelers pushing the snow back into the street.

Marhle suggested that a public information campaign ask residents to keep the sidewalks plowed.

Mayor Pro Tem David Poulton liked the idea of utilizing a public awareness campaign and suggested an aggressive ticket-writing campaign for those offenders who pile mounds of snow near the roadway that impede traffic.

“I want to see action on this,” said City Commissioner Sharlan Douglas after removing her failed motion from the table to adopt one of the proposed clearance models presented that evening for the 2016-17 season.