EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 15, 2013

Neighbors step up to help clear sidewalks

Snow removal from sidewalks and edges of streets continues

By Bruce Amaro

---- — HAVERHILL — As city workers try to get sidewalks clear for students and other pedestrians, some residents are answering the mayor’s call for help.

With parents complaining about children having to walk at the sides of narrow streets to get to school and bus stops, Mayor James Fiorentini asked residents to help clear sidewalks in front of their homes wherever possible.

Blaisdell Street residents Dan Collins and Roger Stillinger are doing their part. They cleaned the blizzard snow from their property and the five houses around them, and the sidewalks as well.

“We take out the snowblower and go up and down to our nearest neighbors and clean the snow for them,” Collins said.

Despite efforts of city workers and help from residents, some snow-covered sidewalks remain.

“I realize it’s a problem and we’ll have our crews out working until the sidewalks get cleared,’’ the mayor said yesterday. “We have two sidewalk plows to work with for now. We only had one until I was mayor, and I’m trying to get another one.’’

City workers continue to clear sidewalks and use front-end loaders to widen streets. They put the snow into dump trucks, which take it to the Highway Department Yard on Primrose Street. There, a huge mound of snow is growing.

Fiorentini said he met with police Chief Alan DeNaro and School Superintendent James Scully to review the plan for cleaning the city after the blizzard. They identified critical areas that needed the most immediate attention, and planned to work on the sidewalks after the streets were cleared.

Although Fiorentini said Haverhill has in the past enforced the ordinance requiring property owners to clear the sidewalks in front of their buildings, he is reluctant to use it unless the owner shows complete disregard for the law — especially with so much snow on the ground from the blizzard.

The mayor said he is thankful for the efforts of residents who have helped clear sidewalks and their neighbors’ driveways.

“This is a time when the neighborhoods come alive and people help each other out,” he said. “And, in that spirit, we see a lot of places that get cleared up before we get there.’’

In the past, the city has sent inspectors to urban areas with many sidewalks to verify compliance with the law that residents clear sidewalks in front of their homes. The inspectors have fined offenders who repeatedly disregard the regulation. The fine is $50 for each offense.

Scully found himself an unpopular man when he closed schools on Monday, a day after the clean up began, but he said “We live in New England, and when we a substantial amount of snow, I want to do the responsible thing, and put the safety of out school population first.’’

Scully pointed out that Haverhill has 400 miles of roads, most of them with accompanying sidewalks.

“They take time to clear,’’ he said. “It’s a big city and takes a lot of effort and not all the sidewalks get cleaned right away.’’

At Barrett’s Specialty Food and sandwich shop at 103 Merrimack St., owner Melinda Barrett described how high the snow had piled up at the beginning of the storm and that the city cleaned it away down to the pavement.

“When you look out there, it’s like it never snowed,” she said, pointing to the bare sidewalk.