[nfbmi-talk] another partial newsline fix

gkitchen ghkitchen at comcast.net
Tue Dec 21 01:27:51 UTC 2010

Hi Joe,

I appreciate you providing this news. Too bad it is bad news though. I guess 
you would have  to call the bank and see if they would take your credit card 
for the fund down in Littleton.  Perhaps a money order would work. I would 
like to donate  a bit also. I cannot imagine the sadness those students must 
feel and the 2 surviving students  now have to cope with dealing with their 
multiple injuries. My prayers go  out to them and to the family of the man 
that was killed.

Yes, walking without sidewalks is tricky. Do you have para transit out 
there?? Margot Brummett from the Service Center for the Visually Impaired is 
in the Genesis Convalence Center. I cannot imagine trying to walk out there 
in that particular area since there are not sidewalks. I take the your ride 
out there if Ken is not around to take me. She is hopeful that she can live 
independently soon again.  Do you remember her? I know George knew her and 
Mike. We have best of friends for years.  She is in pain due to her back and 
is unable to walk right now. They are nice there but she says she is bored 
because there is not too many people to talk with because most of the 
people are not able to talk or have limited speech due to strokes etc.

Take care and Merry Cjhristmas,

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "joe harcz Comcast" <joeharcz at comcast.net>
To: <nfbmi-talk at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Monday, December 20, 2010 6:52 PM
Subject: [nfbmi-talk] another partial newsline fix

Keeping Sidewalks Clear During WinterKalamazoo Gazette / Mark BugnaskiMary 
Gashaw crosses South Westnedge Avenue at Crosstown Parkway on her way to 

Marketplace in Kalamazoo. Getting around in her wheelchair is far more 
difficult for Gashaw — and sometimes impossible — when walkways such as this 

aren't cleared of snow and ice during the winter.

KALAMAZOO — Stricken with weak legs, bad hips and arthritis, Mary Gashaw 
relies on her wheelchair to get around Kalamazoo.

In good weather, the wheelchair gives her a sense of independence, allowing 
her to travel on her own to the grocery store or doctor’s office.

But in the winter, her motorized wheelchair acts just like a car. It slips 
and slides or gets stuck on ice and snow left on city sidewalks.

“A wheelchair will spin out just as easily as a car will,” said Gashaw, 64, 
who navigates on the street when sidewalks aren’t clear.

That’s why Gashaw is asking residents and business owners to make sure their 
sidewalks and curbs are cleared of snow.

It’s a common refrain heard every winter.

Across Southwest Michigan,

communities have ordinances requiring residents and businesses to clear 
their sidewalks of snow and ice.

Failure to comply can result in fines, tax liens on property — even jail 
time, according to various ordinances.

The penalties sound tough, but enforcement falls short — Kalamazoo City 
Attorney Clyde Robinson said he can’t recall a single case in which a city 

owner was fined or jailed.

Most cities have no regular sidewalk patrols and, with shrinking revenues, 
fewer staff to monitor compliance or clear walkways. Even when responding to

complaints, police may be reluctant to penalize homeowners who may be out of 
town.  Property owners also may suffer from disabilities themselves that 

it hard for them to keep their sidewalks clear.

In Otsego, the city has done less sidewalk snow removal in past years 
because of staff cuts.

“We still put ads in the paper encouraging people to keep the walks clear,” 
City Manager Thad Beard said. “We have not cited people, but it’s not going

as well as we wish. We hate to be the bad guy, we’d hate to cite people, and 
we usually don’t.”

But that may change if voluntary compliance doesn’t step up, he said.

“Clear your sidewalks,” he said.

In Kalamazoo, property owners are responsible for removing snow from their 

Failure to do so is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine and up to 
90 days in jail.

Robinson said he is aware of an occasional report of a person riding a 
wheelchair in the road because of snow-covered sidewalks.  But he believes 
the majority

of property owners keep their sidewalks clear.

In Portage, enforcement of the city’s snow-removal ordinance is 
complaint-driven, said Jack Hartman, director of the city’s streets and 
equipment division.

The city’s community development department investigates complaints and 
issues $50 tickets if sidewalks are not cleared.

The city usually gets 20 to 30 complaints a year and writes 10 to 12 
tickets, Hartman said.

“I wouldn’t call it a major problem,” Hartman said about snowy sidewalks.

Changes this year

In response to complaints, some communities are stepping up efforts this 
year to tackle snow removal, either by cracking down on property owners who 

to shovel or by spending more tax dollars to pay to get the job done.

In South Haven, where street plowing can throw more snow onto sidewalks, the 
city is expanding its plowing services to include four additional miles of

sidewalks downtown and along routes students walk to school. The extra snow 
plowing will cost an estimated $30,000, said City Manager Brian Dissette.

But Dissette said there are no guarantees the city will have the funds to 

sidewalk snow removal.

“What I’ve said to the citizens and the council, is that this is not a 
solution,” he said.

To permanently fund snow removal of sidewalks would require increasing 
property taxes or cutting other services, Dissette said.

Otsego’s Beard said that while business owners and residents are responsible 
for keeping properties cleared, the city helps out — when staff is available

— to clear sidewalks downtown and along main routes to schools.

“Occasionally, we come through,” he said.

Kalamazoo Township this year strengthened its snow-removal ordinance by 
boosting enforcement and increasing fines for those who fail to clear their 

Township officials began considering stronger action after a woman in a 
wheelchair got stuck in a snowdrift while she was traveling near West Main 

and Jenks Boulevard two years ago, said Treasurer George Cochran.  Two 
passers-by ended up rescuing the woman.

The ordinance states people living near a school or bus stop or on county 
and state roads must keep their sidewalks clear of ice and snow more than 2 

deep within 36 hours of accumulation.  Repeat offenders face stiffer fines: 
Within a three-year period,

first-time offenders are fined $30, $60 for a second offense and up to $120 
for four offenses.

The township uses an ordinance enforcement officer to monitor compliance.

“If no one is living in the property for three months during the winter,” 
such as retirees who leave for warmer climates, “its going to be a problem 

them,” Cochran said.

“They’re not used to having to make arrangements to keep their sidewalks 
cleaned while they’re gone. ... The way the ordinance is written, it 

will continue to build up.”

Cochran said those with disabilities or senior citizens who can’t physically 
shovel should call the township about possibly getting assistance.

Brent Garlow, owner of Garlow Property Maintenance in Portage, said 
homeowners who leave town for the winter generally pay to have their drives 

every time snowfall exceeds a few inches.  Adding the sidewalk to the job 
would be an additional $10 for an average lot, he said.

A dangerous path

On a recent winter day, Gashaw, a retired cook, was riding east in her 
wheelchair on Crosstown Parkway near the apartment where she lives.

There is a patch of snow-covered sidewalk that Gashaw knows her wheelchair 
will get stuck in, so she goes around it and into the street where cars whiz

by her.

It isn’t safe, but it’s the only way she can get around if her path isn’t 
clear, Gashaw said.

Brian Culver, president of Kalamazoo-based All American Roll Models, which 
helps people with disabilities identify resources, said he doesn’t believe 

owners are being malicious when they neglect to shovel their walkways.

“It’s not that they don’t care,” said Culver, who was injured in a car 
accident in 1994 and became a quadriplegic.  “Most people don’t understand. 
I didn’t

understand until I got hurt.”

What helps, Culver said, is for store owners to ask their customers with 
disabilities if they had trouble accessing the building.

“Ninety-five percent of the time, they’ll go out of their way to make it 
right,” Culver said.

Contact Gabrielle Russon at

grusson at kalamazoogazette.com

or 269-388-8412. Staff writer Rosemary Parker contributed to this report.
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