Grand Rapids Snow Removal Ordinance and Enforcement Challenged by Constant Snowfall

Posted at 7:11 PM, Jan 30, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-30 23:34:50-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. –So far, the city of Grand Rapids said it’s issued 37 ‘force plow’ citations to property owners with snowy sidewalks.

“This is 4 feet wide, and it’s nice and flat. It would be nice to see it all down to concrete,” city employee Kip Klinge observed a shoveled sidewalk.

When complaints of snow-covered sidewalks come in to the city of Grand Rapids, it’s Klinge’s job to check on them.

“So I have approximately 260 [complaints] right now,” Klinge said.

The city said more than 1200 complaints have been reported in December 2013 and this January. More than 600 complaints reported from December 2012 through March 2013.

All of those complaints are reported by city residents or other property owners.
Klinge delivers a yellow slip which tells the non-compliant property owner they have 48 hours to clear the snow.

“When we come to the door, they’re pretty upset why we’re there. But if you look at their neighbor on each side, it’s right down to the concrete.
And it’s pretty obvious why we’re there,” Klinge explained.

After the 48 hours, the property owner risks getting a blue slip, known as a “force plow.” That’s where 61st district court takes over and sends someone to shovel the walk and charges a hefty fee.
It’s $95 for an administrative fee plus $25 for every fifteen minutes of shoveling.

“And we don’t really like giving people force plows, at least I don’t, because I know it costs people money,” Klinge said.

However, it’s something that has to be done. Klinge said his complaint list is backlogged by about three weeks.
The continuous snow is partly to blame.

“If we have a snow event, we have to give them another 48 hours, in other words,” he said.

He said lately it’s hard to tell what is fresh accumulation.

“Our priority basically are ‘point-of-sale’ inspections,” Klinge said.

When a house goes up for sale, the sidewalk division has to inspect the sidewalk.

“And that comes priority over these snow complaints in other words,” Klinge said.