Rumford board to begin enforcing ordinance to keep sidewalks snow-free

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RUMFORD — Selectmen decided Thursday night they will start enforcing town ordinances restricting residents from plowing snow onto sidewalks.

They also agreed to open up the town snow dump beside Rumford Avenue to general contractors and highway crews who remove snow from Rumford properties.

Selectmen asked Public Works Superintendent Andy Russell to create a separate sand pile for residents to get a couple of 5-gallon buckets each.

However, to prevent people from backing pickup trucks and dump trucks to the pile, Jersey barriers will be placed in front of it. Selectman Frank DiConzo wanted the town to buy and install security cameras to try to curb sand pile abuse.

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Those topics generated considerable discussion, particularly the issue of residents dumping snow on the streets and sidewalks. Several contractors said they don’t believe the ordinances will be enforced because they haven’t been for some 40 years.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Greg Buccina said it would still be worth attempting to educate residents about the problem, even if it takes warnings from police officers and civil penalties to stop them from dumping the snow. 

“Every year, we have issues,” Town Manager John Madigan said. “Every year, citizens complain, and every year is different. I don’t know what else we can do. We deal with it the best we can, but we’re not going to please everybody, but at least we have a system — and we seem to get by, year after year.”

Plowing snow across streets is allowed commercially and residentially, if people get a permit from the town, Madigan said. That was started in the 1980s, he said. Police Chief Stacy Carter said 15 permits have been issued to date this winter.

Selectman Mark Belanger asked why the town continues to have ordinances restricting people from depositing snow in streets and on sidewalks if the laws aren’t going to be enforced.

Carter said it’s not a matter of targeting a few residents.

“As far as enforcing this ordinance, this isn’t a Cumberland Street problem or a Franklin Street problem — this is a townwide problem,” he said. “We’d literally have to go house to house to address the issue. We can’t arbitrarily pick people out and issue them a summons.”

Another problem is that on many streets, houses are side by side and have no yards — and therefore, nowhere to put the snow, he said.

Since he has been in Rumford, Carter said, people often leave the snow along the right of way.

“Because for forever, after a major storm, the town would come and clean it up,” he said. “But in the past couple of years, because of budget woes, that has dwindled some, and then it starts to accumulate.”

He’s seen problem areas where residents and businesses put the snow on sidewalks, he said. His officers will continue to address those areas as the storms come and will be able to identify the people who are doing that.

“Sometimes, it’s pretty hard to identify who they are,” Carter said. We need to prioritize our calls from snow removal to criminal complaints. It’s difficult at times, he said. 

“Being a townwide problem, we need to be fair and consistent in our enforcement,” he said. “It would be unfair to arbitrarily pick people out and issue people summonses if we’re not going to do it townwide. There’s a problem with that. There’s not enough manpower or time. To all of a sudden, after 40 years of allowing them to distribute it alongside the road so it’s not interfering with the travel lane, you’ll be asking a lot of property owners to have their snow hauled away.”

Contractor Roger White said he agreed with Carter.

“Basically, these ordinances are a joke because some people can put their snow in the road and others can’t,” White said. “How do you expect (police) to mandate who can and can’t? Many times we’re hauling snow and see someone push their snow into the road and the town comes by and picks it up — every storm.”

Buccina said he didn’t think they could realistically depend on them to do that.

“It’s not the contractors that are pushing snow into the roads and leaving it — it’s the homeowners,” White said.

Buccina said selectmen need to educate residents against doing that.

Belanger suggested that an advertisement be run in the local paper to that effect.

Discussions turned to the highway crew’s prioritized list for plowing and snow removal and Belanger asked for a copy of the list.

Superintendent Russell said the list was created in the 1960s and selectmen since then have asked to look at it, “but nothing ever happens.”

Buccina said that would be placed on the next agenda.

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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