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The Law Says: Is it really still snowing?

February 7, 2014

The concept surrounding safety has been hitting the headlines recently due to the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Most folks think of the games as a fun time that just happens to pop up every fourth winter on the TV screen. Who needs to be safe, since most of us don't get to go to the actual sports venues anyway? As long as one stays indoors, who cares about the snow?

Thinking about safety in Punxsutawney is probably not on anyone's bucket list of things to worry about. Many places in this country have a murder or drive-by shooting every 20 minutes, whereas in Punxsutawney, such a crime only comes into play closer to every 20 years.

Yes, Punxsutawney is a relatively safe place to live. In fact, last November, AAA awarded our police department with a Platinum Award for outstanding work in making the area's roadways safer for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians. Other area communities to receive awards included Indiana — also with a Platinum Award — and Clarion with a Silver Award.

Traffic safety, however, is only as effective as the citizenry allow it to be, and it is not the only criteria that places a community in a safe mode. Safety, especially at this time of year with the snow, involves how folks take care of their sidewalks, driveways and the streets themselves. It is true that the streets largely are well-maintained by the town's public works department and the state's transportation department.

According to the snow removal section of the Borough Code, there is no excuse to say, "Well, yes, I do own the property, but I don't live there." The property owner ultimately is responsible, which means a portion of a lease should be explicit in what a tenant needs to do to combat winter conditions at the rental property.

Unfortunately, this scenario has been observed right here in Punxsutawney, but it is unlawful to pitch the snow into the street or highway. One thing that should be a common sense thought is that it is a no-no is to heap the snow around a fire hydrant. Property owners also should be quick to look up at the roof and eaves of a property when the weather turns nasty. Falling debris would be dangerous, and that concept is covered in the code.

POINT OF LAW: Section 208-40 — Removal of snow, ice, rain and sleet.

A. The owner and/or tenant(s) of every property located within the Borough of Punxsutawney shall remove or cause to be removed all snow, ice, hail or sleet falling, forming or placed upon any sidewalk located within any borough right-of-way adjacent to the property of the owner or any sidewalk which provides access to the general public across any part of said property within 24 hours after the same shall have ceased to fall or form. The liability of the owner shall not be based upon the owner's occupancy of the property, and, on the contrary, the owner shall be liable for compliance with this provision even though the owner is not in possession.

B. In the event snow, ice, hail or sleet on a sidewalk has become so hard that it cannot be removed without likelihood of damage to the sidewalk, the same person(s) charged with the removal of same shall place enough salt, de-icer, sand or other abrasive on the sidewalk to make travel thereon reasonably safe, and as soon thereafter as weather permits, clear said sidewalk.

C. It shall be unlawful for any person to throw, shovel, cast or otherwise move, place, pile, deposit or dump snow, ice, hail or sleet removed from sidewalks, driveways or other areas into any street, alley or public highway, or for any person, when the cartway of any street, alley or public highway shall be cleared or partially cleared, to throw or place any snow or any other accumulation in the cleared cartway or passageway area.

D. No person shall deposit or cause to be deposited any snow, ice, hail or sleet upon any fire hydrant.

E. It shall be unlawful for the owner, occupant or tenant of any building in the Borough fronting or abutting on or along any street or public alley to allow snow, ice or icicles to accumulate on the roof, eaves or any other part of such building whereby the same may become or be dangerous to any person or persons on any sidewalk.
The owner of a property shall be responsible for compliance with this article where such property is occupied by such owner or is unoccupied; the tenant or occupier thereof, where such property is occupied by such tenant or occupier; and the owner thereof, where the property is a multiple-business or multiple-dwelling property, occupied by more than one tenant or occupier.

Section 208-42-PENALTY

Any owner, occupant or tenant who violates any of the provisions herein as set forth in 208-40, shall be guilty of a summary offense upon conviction and be subject to a fine of not more than $300 and/or be committed to the Jefferson County Jail for a period not exceeding five days. Each day of noncompliance with this article shall constitute a separate offense.

Yes, that was a lot to absorb, but the non-compliance can cost.

And remember the law...

Tom Fedigan can be reached at tfedigan@punxsutawneyboro.com. Roberta Dinsmore can be reached at randomrmd@yahoo.com.

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