The city of Portland is reminding residents that they must clear their sidewalks of snow and ice or face the prospect of having to pay a hefty removal fee.

Jessica Grondin, the city’s spokeswoman, said recent storms generated complaints from several residents, who say their neighbors and some businesses are not complying with Portland’s snow and ice removal ordinance.

Those complaints prompted Grondin to issue a press release Tuesday reminding business owners that they have 12 hours following a winter storm to clear snow and ice from adjacent sidewalks, while residential property owners are given a 24-hour grace period after a storm ends.

Under the current enforcement system, business or property owners are handed a citation by Department of Public Works employees if their sidewalk is deemed to be out of compliance. If the owner fails to remove the snow and ice within the allotted time period, the city hires a contractor to clean up the mess, making the property owner responsible for paying whatever the contractor’s bill amounts to.

“The lowest (contractor) fee I’ve ever heard of was $200. It depends on how much sidewalk you have around your property, but it can get to be pretty expensive,” Grondin said.

The Department of Public Works plows about 100 miles of sidewalks, including Portland’s downtown district, school walking routes, and sidewalks along major thoroughfares. But Grondin said the city doesn’t have the staff or resources to clear every sidewalk, and that is why it has an ordinance that places the responsibility on property owners.

“We just don’t have the manpower,” she said.

Grondin said keeping sidewalks clear of snow and ice is a safety issue, especially for those people who walk or bicycle to work in the winter months.

“It’s pretty common in most major cities, such as Boston,” to have a snow and ice removal ordinance, Grondin noted.

Property owners who are disabled, sick, or elderly and unable to clear a sidewalk can contact the city’s Office of Elder Affairs at 541-6620 for help. The office’s director, Linda Weare, will try to find a volunteer willing to remove snow and ice.

According to Weare, the city has lined up volunteers for Munjoy Hill, Deering Highlands, Deering Center, Back Cove, the West End and East Bayside neighborhoods.

Grondin said Weare’s office took over the responsibility of finding help for the city’s vulnerable population this winter after Munjoy Hill resident Joan Sheedy, founder and coordinator of the Senior Snow Shoveling Project, retired.

Sheedy founded the program in 2005 after learning that the city was fining seniors on fixed incomes.

Sheedy used high school students, prerelease inmates from the Cumberland County Jail, and volunteers from the Boy Scouts to shovel snow and ice.

Rather than sending patrols into neighborhoods to look for violations, the city relies on its residents to report potential violations.

Grondin said citizens can report sidewalk snow and ice removal violations by using the City’s Fix It Portland app or they can visit the city’s Fix It! Portland website, which displays complaints and photographs of alleged violations. The web address is:

On Tuesday, someone reported snow blocking crosswalk access at 760 Congress St. and posted a photograph with the complaint on the Fix It! Portland website.

Another complainant wrote about unsafe sidewalks on Ocean Avenue. “Very icy brick sidewalks, cleaned but not sanded. Nowhere to walk. Like most of Back Cove, very unsafe for pedestrians.”

A third person reported that snow on a curb in front of a Brighton Avenue business was making it difficult for patrons to “climb over an icy mountain of snow. There is a small area that has been plowed but the drain is still covered and cars constantly block the area.”

Grondin said that someone – she is not sure who – created a Twitter account that is dedicated to finding and photographing images of “unsafe, icy and snow-covered sidewalks in our fair city.” Grondin said the Twitter site was created about a week ago.

One photograph on the Twitter page shows a Deering Street sidewalk covered in snow and glare ice.

“Basically all of Deering Street is an icy mess. It looks like the city tried, but homeowners have done little to help with the ice,” the Twitter message states.

Another image displays a snow- and ice-covered sidewalk in front of a business on Forest Avenue. “Watched two men holding hands trying to navigate it,” the Twitter post says.

Grondin said the city would prefer not to have to persuade residents and business owners to clear sidewalks. She is hopeful that more people will offer to help those residents who may not have enough time or who forget to shovel.

“It’s just a neighborly thing to do,” Grondin said.

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