Monday, January 11, 2010

2 plus 3 equals purple

Okay, sports fans, try this one on for size:
  • The city of Billings has an ordinance (Sec. 22-406) that states that property owners are responsible for removing snow from their sidewalks within 24 hours of the end of the snowstorm.
  • Said ordinance is "complaint-driven", meaning that one must call a specific number and provide the address of the guilty party.
  • On such complaint, the city will mail the owner a notice that they have to remove the snow.
  • If the property owner fails to do so, the city has the option of either removing it and billing the owner, or issuing the owner a fine up to $500.
  • When we get a snowstorm, the city promptly dispatches the snowplows to deal with the major thoroughfares (i.e. "snow routes").
  • The current procedure is for the snowplow drivers to redirect the snow onto the sidewalks so as to keep the roads clear.
Now, if some enthusiastic or motivated person goes out and clears their walks and the city plow then comes along and buries the sidewalk in snow, who's responsible?

This is not an uncommon occurence, and I can easily imagine the city sending a nastygram to property owner, who does one of the following:
  1. Re-shovels, then bills the city for the extra effort. When the city doesn't pay, take them to court.
  2. Ignores the city's notice, and gets fined or billed as appropriate. The aggravated property owner then rears back on their hind legs and sues the city.
  3. Tells the ordinance enforcement people what happened, and to get lost, followed by (2) above.
None of the three options above has happened that I know of, but considering the problems Billings has had with lawsuits over the past few years, I think it's only a matter of time before someone DOES get fed up with the stupidity. When it does, I'm betting that a court will side with the property owner. Any lawyer types out there care to express an opinion?

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