Photo by Miles Maguire
A pedestrian struggles through a partially shoveled stretch of sidewalk on Algoma Boulevard.
By Miles Maguire
If you are one of those property owners who pay little attention to local rules on snow shoveling, be warned--the city has seen a dramatic increase in complaints through an easy-to-use online app called SeeClickFix.
As of Feb. 18 the city had received 84 snow and ice complaints through the app, compared to just seven app-based complaints for all of last winter.
“Each storm event is very different, and each round of complaints is very different,” said James Rabe, the Oshkosh director of public works.
But he said one clear trend is that more people have turned to online reporting to deal with slippery sidewalks. After the Feb. 12 storm, the city got 14 complaints in five days, Rabe said.
One reason may be that the SeeClickFix makes it easy to report a problem--and to do so anonymously. The app also allows citizens to keep tabs on the city’s follow-up.
For example on Feb. 10, an anonymous user on the SeeClickFix site complained about two properties on Irving Street “that never shovel.” The next day the Department of Public Works posted an acknowledgement that it had received the complaint and three days later posted that the case had been closed because the sidewalk had been cleared.
The city requires property owners to shovel their sidewalks within 24 hours of a snowfall. To enforce the rule, a contractor is hired each year to remove snow and ice in response to complaints--with a chargeback to the property owner.
The costs can add up, and repeat offenders can get slapped with a $232 citation on top of the shoveling fee.
This year the contract went to Jeff Foust Excavating, whose bid calls for a base charge of $72 to clear 100 linear feet of sidewalk. The city puts an administrative fee on top of that, which means that property owners who don’t shovel are looking at a minimum cost of $97 if the city does it for them.
But Rabe said the costs can escalate from there. He gave the example of someone on a corner lot with 80 feet of frontage on one street, 50 feet on the other and a curb cut in the middle for pedestrians. According to Rabe, the costs for clearing snow on that site would break down like this:
SeeClickFix can be accessed either through the city’s website or through a mobile app downloaded to a cellular device.
The city has also gotten faster at resolving snow and ice complaints that are received electronically. Last year it took the city 11.6 days to revolve resolve sidewalk issues that came in via app while this year those complaints have been closed in 5.9 days, according to city records.
Over the last five years, the city has averaged about 475 shoveling complaints each winter. Last winter the city got 359 complaints but has already exceeded that number for the current season with a tally of 376 through Feb. 18.
If you do encounter a property with unshoveled snow after a storm, keep in mind that there is nothing to be done in the first 24 hours after the precipitation has stopped. The city will not accept complaints that are made sooner.
The SeeClickFix app is part of a program called Connect Oshkosh. Visit https://www.ci.oshkosh.wi.us/ConnectOshkosh/ to register a concern or to download the app.