With record snowfalls, Prairie Village ponders enforcement of shoveling ordinances

Icy sidewalks pose a danger to pedestrians.

This year’s record snowfalls haven’t just been a pain for people commuting to work and parents making arrangements for homebound children. They’ve also caused a major headache for Prairie Village city administrators.

Following the two large snows earlier this year, city hall was flooded with calls from residents with reports of sidewalks blocked by snow and ice. The city sent 750 letters to residents reminding them of the ordinance requiring sidewalks be cleared, but because Prairie Village has a policy of not issuing tickets for infractions of the snow removal ordinance, their options for putting teeth behind the warnings were limited.

“We don’t want to be the city that hands out tickets for this kind of thing,” City Councilwoman Laura Wassmer told the Prairie Village Post. “But there were major safety issues. We had reports of kids having to walk out in the street — even of a woman in a wheelchair having to go out into the street.”

Lawrence, according to Prairie Village city administrator Quinn Bennion, is the only city in the area that actively issues tickets for failure to clear sidewalks of snow and ice. The Prairie Village City Council and city staff are very hesitant to join them, though, because it would set up the potential for the the city to issue arrest warrants  if the tickets weren’t paid.

“That’s a situation I don’t think the council or staff are eager to get into,” Bennion said. “‘What did you get arrested for?’ ‘I didn’t shovel my driveway.'”

Wassmer said council members will be asking neighbors to start coordinating better on ensuring their sidewalks are cleared. She said residents with snowblowers could help out by clearing the sidewalks of elderly residents who may not be physically able to shovel. Failing that, she said, she hopes people would pay to have the task performed.

“It costs $15 to have someone come and shovel the sidewalk,” Wassmer said. “That $15 a couple times a year probably isn’t going to break anybody, so we hope people will go ahead an take the steps they need to. It’s the neighborly thing to do”