GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Two days after the Blizzard of 2011, the city is preparing to crack down on residents with snow-clogged sidewalks.
They say it's critical to keep pedestrians safe and to allow Grand Rapids Public Schools to re-open on Monday after three days off.
But a Target 8 investigation found that, in some city neighborhoods, the city itself is among the worst violators.
"People need to shovel and if this is the city's property, then they need to shovel and not just say, 'Hey, you need to shovel your sidewalks,'" Adam Mix said after trudging over hard-packed snow to a Rapid bus stop in front of the city's Cherry Park. "It's not fair. A lot of little kids need to walk on here. They could get hurt."
The city owns more than 600 pieces of property. Target 8 on Friday checked 10 of those properties and, found, that in all but one case, the walks were clogged with snow, sometimes two feet deep. Often, neighboring sidewalks were plowed right up until they reached city property.
A similar Target 8 investigation last summer found Grand Rapids wasn't trimming weeds in city-owned lots, even while it was ordering others to keep neat yards. Friday, Target 8 revisited some of the same lots.
At Cherry Street and Eastern Avenue SE, sidewalks on three of the four corners are cleared down to the cement. The fourth corner, in front of Cherry Park, is buried in snow.
In the 500 block of Jefferson Avenue SE, snow is nearly knee-deep on the sidewalk in front of four vacant city-owned lots. On East Fulton, a narrow, foot-trodden track goes for several blocks in front of a city cemetery.
At Wealthy Street and Charles Avenue SE, James King avoided the sidewalk that runs in front of a city-owned lot and a city parking lot -- both covered in drifts.
"I don't have boots or anything, and they're not plowed or shoveled, so the road is, so I was walking down the road," King said. "We have budget issues, so I'm OK with the city obviously asking people to shovel their own sidewalks, but if they're going to do that, then it would only be fair that they take care of city-owned property," he said.
The city on Friday acknowledged it had fallen behind.
"It's just a lot of snow to get around; it might not look like we're getting them done, but we're working on them," said Sidewalk Administrator Ralph Johnson.
Johnson's department is responsible for clearing snow from walks on about 120 city-owned properties. For the most part, the city uses people convicted of minor crimes -- the 61st District Court work crew -- to shovel the walks by hand. They don't use power equipment.
But on Wednesday, the storm closed the courts, and the work crew wasn't working.
Johnson acknowledged it's difficult to tell residents to shovel walks when the city's are clogged. "That's why we try to stay up on this as much as we possibly can, and we're working diligently on this. Believe me, we are."
Johnson said he hopes to clear the sidewalks by Monday, but there's no guarantee.
The city is warning residents it will start enforcing its snow-removal ordinance on Monday. If residents don't clear them, it could lead to a warning letter giving them another 48 hours to shovel. If it's not done by then, the city will do it at a cost of at least $195 ($95 charge, plus $100 labor.)
"We also have a reprieve now, with this amnesty we have going on," Johnson said. "This is now giving us the opportunity to get out and do these properties."
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