Possibly the only remaining trace of winter in the Buckeye State this week was discussion of a bill posed by a Port Clinton lawmaker interested in allowing the state’s statutorily bound townships to advance snow and ice removal policies within their jurisdictional boundaries.
Despite the calendar marking the arrival of spring, Republican Rep. Steve Arndt, joined by Bowling Green Republican Rep. Theresa Charters Gavarone, forwarded House Bill 39 in House committee hearings to require the removal of snow and ice from sidewalks abutting property in certain Ohio townships.
Arndt characterized the measure as a simple and straight-forward public safety bill before House members seated on the State and Local Government Committee.
“This bill’s only objective is to provide affected townships with the discretion and the authority to maintain a safe environment for pedestrians wherever and whenever necessary,” the lawmaker and sponsor of the measure said. “Additionally, HB 39 gives all affected townships the statutory authority needed to insure that if and when sidewalks are installed, they are maintained free of snow, ice and trip hazards similar to incorporated communities.”
HB 39 also would permit the townships to have the snow removed from sidewalks abutting property if the property owner, occupant or other person has failed to do so.
In these circumstances, the township would have the authority to collect expenses incurred in the removal of snow and ice from the property of an owner who failed to comply.
Testimony provided by a representative of the Ohio Township Association reminded lawmakers that townships can only do what the Ohio Revised Code permits or inherently implies.
“Municipalities, on the other hand, have home rule power and may currently adopt snow removal ordinances requiring residents to keep walkways free of snow and ice,” said Heidi Fought, director of the association’s governmental affairs.
Only townships that have had an average of five or more inches of snow during November through April over the previous 10-year period would be permitted to adopt such a resolution, the bill outlines.
Additionally, no township that meets the requirement would be required to pass such a resolution.
Perkins Township Administrator Gary Boyle said the urban nature of his home township in Erie County contributes to the need for such legislation.
Recent transportation enhancements of U.S. Route 250 included installation of sidewalks for pedestrians, Boyle said.
“Perkins Township has worked closely with our school district and regional planning commission to obtain grant funding under Ohio Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School programming,” he continued. “In this regard, it is noted that sidewalks are being installed in a number of areas to connect our neighborhoods to elementary and middle schools in order to provide students with safer access to schools and facilities.
“By having the ability to require that sidewalks be cleared of snow and ice after a storm, our school-age children will be able to access schools on sidewalks rather than risking walking in the streets.”
HB 39 was slated for an additional hearing by the committee.