With a few inches of snow on the ground—and more in the forecast today—St. Louis Park residents are looking at something that has become an uncommon task this winter—shoveling sidewalks.
But if it were up to Ward 1 councilwoman Sue Sanger, more of the load would fall on the city.
St. Louis Park has 110.6 miles of sidewalk, of which 62.7 miles—or 57 percent—are “neighborhood” sidewalks that must be shoveled by adjacent property owners or property managers. The remaining sidewalks are dubbed “community” sidewalks. City staffers plow these busier walkways, such as the ones that run along Louisiana Avenue.
Sanger said the sidewalk designation is “arbitrary,” and she's called for all St. Louis Park sidewalks to be handled by the city.
“A number of other communities plow (for everyone),” she said. “(A St. Louis Park resident might say), ‘Why are my taxes paying for (my neighbor’s) sidewalks to get plowed and not mine?’”
In nearby Edina, Golden Valley and Plymouth, all snow removal on local sidewalks is handled by the respective cities. Sanger said such a system helps ensure that sidewalks are maintained to a consistent level—and helps residents get around.
But other council members have balked at her idea, particularly because of the extra price: City staff estimate the extra plowing would require six new workers, six new plows, and cost $465,000 more per year. The city currently spends about $75,000 per year to take care of its share of sidewalk snow removal.
Councilwoman Anne Mavity doesn't agree with what she called "sweeping aside the system in place." She would rather see more concrete definitions for “neighborhood” and “community” sidewalks. She also stressed enforcement of shoveling requirements.
“I have never heard a demand for shoveling everyone’s sidewalks,” Mavity said. “It would seem we’d get more flack for spending tax dollars that way."
While Ward 3 councilwoman Sue Santa agreed that more rigid definitions would be good in delineating the two types of sidewalks, she said nobody in her ward has expressed confusion about the current system. Councilman Jake Spano said he sees neighborhood shoveling as an opportunity for “neighbors to help each other out,” particularly when it comes to making sure elderly residents can get around.
Sanger said relying on residents to shovel for each other is a “nostalgic, small town idea” that isn't realistic. Despite Sanger’s insistence, the idea of the city taking on plowing duties for all local sidewalks doesn’t seem to be going anywhere at this time, as it doesn’t have enough council support.
“I think the system in place has been working,” councilwoman Mavity said.
This look at nearby cities reveals it's not uncommon for cities to clear sidewalks:City Sidewalks maintained by city (in miles) Sidewalks maintained by residents (in miles) St. Louis Park 47.9 62.7 Bloomington 300 - Crystal 24.5 2 Edina 25 - Golden Valley 44 - Hopkins 2.5 19.5 Minnetonka 26.5 - New Hope 28.5 - Plymouth 70 - Richfield 41.5 - Robbinsdale - All (number not specified)
Source: City of St. Louis Park