City of Urbana updates snow removal policy

By Joshua Keeran - [email protected]

Urbana City Council on Tuesday passed an ordinance amending language in the city’s codified ordinances pertaining to snow removal and snow emergencies, a measure officials hope will change the snow and ice removal habits of various residents and plow operators this winter.

“What started all this is we have received comments over the past couple of years centered around people not clearing their sidewalks, people pushing snow out of parking lots into the street, and people blowing snow off the sidewalk into the street,” Director of Administration Kerry Brugger said.

The amended section of the city’s codified ordinances mentioning the removal of snow or ice from sidewalks and parking areas, which was last updated in 1984, now reads, “No owner or occupant of any premises within the city shall permit or allow snow or ice to remain on any sidewalk or parking area for more than 24 hours after receiving written notice from the director of administration or the street department to remove the snow or ice if it creates a specific public hazard as documented in the written notice.”

In instances were notice is given and the snow or ice isn’t removed, the director of administration or street superintendent has the authority to proceed with removal at the expense of the property owner or occupant.

The amendment also states, “No business or property owner may remove snow or ice in a manner that obstructs vehicular or pedestrian traffic on a sidewalk or street. All ice or snow cleared from a private property shall be disposed of on private property in a manner that does not create dangerous conditions for the public.”

“You don’t push snow into someone else’s property, into the right of way, or into the city street to get it off your property,” Brugger said. “The Street Department is trying to do the best it can to keep the streets open, and then someone comes and plows out a parking lot and dumps it into the street, which is counterproductive.”

As for the section of the city’s codified ordinances that deals with a snow emergency, which was last updated in 1994, the amendment allows the director of administration to declare weather emergencies consistent with those declared by the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office.

“We could (declare a snow emergency within the city), but generally speaking, we follow whatever the county does,” Brugger said. “We looked around and what a lot of communities are doing is just using kind of the statewide acceptable snow emergency definitions for level one, level two, and level three snow emergencies. The definitions are as follows:

•Level 1: Roadways are hazardous with blowing and drifting snow. Roads may also be icy. Motorists are urged to drive very cautiously.

•Level 2: Roadways are hazardous with blowing and drifting snow. Roads may also be very icy. Only those who feel it is necessary to drive should be out on the roads. Contact your employer to see if you should report to work. Motorists should use extreme caution.

•Level 3: All roadways are closed to non-emergency personnel. No one should be driving during these conditions unless it is absolutely necessary to travel or a personal emergency exists. All employees should contact their employer to see if they should report to work. Those traveling on the roads may subject themselves to arrest.

Violators of the above mentioned sections of the codified ordinances face a minor misdemeanor charge on first offense, while repeat violators within a three-year period face a fourth-degree misdemeanor charge.

2016 appropriations

On the budget front, council passed on third and final reading a resolution appropriating money for several objects and purposes which the city must provide for fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2016.

The 2016 budget shows appropriations totaling $16,710,190 in revenue and $17,170,121 in expenses. The General Fund, included in the total budget appropriations, shows proposed revenue of $6,292,732, with expenses totaling $6,287,433, resulting in a positive balance of $5,299.

In comparison to the 2015 budget, total appropriated expenses are up $1,512,225 and total appropriated revenue is down $121,355.

“The additional $1.5 million in appropriations is for the new debt payments for the Water and Sewer departments,” Director of Finance Chris Boettcher said, adding the payments are for the completed Phase 1 Water Main Replacement Project and the nearly complete Wastewater Facility Improvements Project. “The city planned to make the debt payments in 2016, and over the last few years, has built reserves in the Water and Sewer funds, respectively. These reserves will be utilized to satisfy the short comings in the Water Fund and Sewer Fund in 2016.”

In other business:

•Council heard the first reading of an ordinance approving a collective bargaining agreement between the city and the Urbana Service Divisions.

The new three-year contract, which was ratified by the Public Employees of Ohio Teamsters Local 284 on behalf of the Urbana Service Divisions on Nov. 17, contains a few changes from the previous three-year deal which expired Nov. 26.

If approved by council, the contract would include a modified pay scale in which a one-time adjustment would be made across the bargaining unit in year one, while the final two years would include pay increases of 1.25 percent and 1 percent, respectively.

The contract would also feature an extra personal day incentive for employees in the water, sewer and street departments who don’t use sick leave in a 12-month calendar year.

“It’s a pretty fair deal,” Council member Doug Hoffman said.

•An ordinance approving the collective bargaining agreement between the city and its firefighters (represented by the Urbana Firefighters Association, IAFF Local 1823) underwent a second reading, as did an ordinance finalizing a labor deal between the city and its fire captains, who are also represented by the local IAFF union.

•By a 5-1 vote (Council member Pat Thackery was absent and Council member Al Evans voted no), council approved a $15,000 increase in the purchase order to Blaugrund, Herbert, Kessler and Miller for employment law support.

“We just want to make sure we have enough money in the line item to get us through the year,” Brugger said.

•In light of the recent fire at the former Q3/JMC property on Miami Street, Evans asked Brugger to clarify who owns the property after hearing from various residents who think it’s a city-owned property.

“It’s currently still titled and owned by Q3/JMC,” Brugger said. “The county doesn’t own it. We don’t own it.”

Community Development Manager Doug Crabill told the Daily Citizen last week that the city has yet to officially take ownership of the 605 Miami St. property, vacant since March 2008, but funding has been secured to redevelop the site. The funding, however, is contingent upon an end user committing to expansion at the site.

By Joshua Keeran

[email protected]

Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.

Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.