The debate about icy sidewalks is heating up at Missoula City Council, after the city announced that it would be increasing penalties for unshoveled sidewalks by hundreds of dollars. The city says they're now hoping to find contractors who will help lower that cost.
City staff initially proposed raising the sidewalk shoveling violation fee from $42 to $150. In addition to the $150 administrative fee, it was recommended that violators pay for the actual cost of the contractor, at a cost of $175 for the first half hour and $325 for each hour after.
City council members say they're hoping to find a contractor that will clear sidewalks for a more affordable price than the original proposal suggested.
Council is also considering changing the cost of the city administrative fee from a set price to a sliding scale.
Missoula City Public Works Committee chair Jordan Hess says the penalties aren't targeted at people who wait until a few minutes after 9 a.m. to clear the walks.
He says the revised policy is designed to take on absentee landlords and owners of vacant lots who don't clear the public sidewalks around them.
"This isn't about, you know, someone leaving town for the weekend and not shoveling their walk," Hess said. "This is the serial offenders who never take care of their public sidewalk."
Hess says there are thousands of pieces of property inside Missoula city limits, and the city shoveled less than 10 sidewalks last year. He says sidewalk clearing is a complaint-driven process, and most people clear their sidewalks within 24 hours of receiving a warning.
A public hearing on the proposed changes is scheduled for December 17.