As one of the snowiest stretches in recent years comes to an end, Des Plaines officials are already warning business owners to remove snow from sidewalks next season or be fined.
Throughout the winter, some aldermen and residents complained of sidewalks not being cleared in commercial areas, including sidewalks along Lee Street and Northwest Highway.
City public works crews already clear snow from 5.4 miles of sidewalk: throughout the downtown, on Oakton Street between the Canadian National Railroad tracks and River Road, and in front of city-owned property.
During Monday's city council meeting, Des Plaines public works director Tim Oakley described what it would take for city crews to clear snow from 27 additional miles of sidewalk in commercially zoned areas: purchasing three more sidewalk-clearing machines for $139,000 each and hiring three more employees with starting salaries and benefits of $70,230 each.
Aldermen didn't appear receptive to paying more to remove snow from all commercial sidewalks. Instead, they favored sending a stronger message to property owners about what's already on the books: They're the ones responsible for snow removal.
City officials say business owners and residents alike could receive notices in the mail next fall telling them to get their shovels ready for the impending snow season. City code stipulates that those who don't remove snow could face fines of up to $250 per violation.
"This comes up every single year," said 6th Ward Alderman Mark Walsten. "Why don't we get a program where at the end of October we send a letter out to all the businesses on all the streets and give them a copy of the ordinance to tell them, 'You will shovel your sidewalks and make them passable.'? Let's get a program where we tell you, 'You're going to get fined,' instead of coming halfway through the season and saying, 'How come you never shovel your walk?' Start it right off the bat."
Oakley said the city could later follow up to see if snow has been removed, and if it hasn't, contract with a private snow removal company or send public works crews to remove snow, based on availability.