City codes department reminds everyone to clear sidewalks

Zachary Garvey and daughter Lauren Garvey, 3, of Montoursville take a ride down a hill in Montoursville on Monday morning. KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

The Williamsport City Bureau of Codes has reminded residents and business owners to clear sidewalks of snow and ice, with insurance companies adding it is also best to prevent injuries and lawsuits.

City codes requires the owner of any building fronting on any street or alley of the city and the vacant lot owner where there is a sidewalk in front, including the corner crosswalk, to clear the premises of snow and ice within 24 hours after the ceasing of a winter weather event.

Winter Storm Izzy left snow along with freezing rain that created hazardous or frustrating conditions, such as blocking the chutes of the snowblowers and making shoveling more challenging.

Once back in service today, the enforcement officers will go around and work closely with the residence or the business owners before issuing any fines, according to Joe Gerardi, city codes administrator, speaking in general regarding winter weather and residential responsibilities.

Monday was a federal holiday, however, or the day America honored the legacy of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. and city offices were closed.

Many homowners chose to wait until temperatures rose a bit above the freezing mark and the sun began to melt the ice mixture covering sidewalks.

Codes personnel understand that people may need time. The intent is never to punish but always give notice first and to work with the homeowners and understand if there are repeat storms or the conditions outside create continual freezing of the sidewalks to give leeway, Gerardi said.

The grace period does not last long due to the danger imposed by snowy or icy sidewalks. Fines for home and business owners start at $200 and can go up to $2,000.

However, the code says each day the condition exists is considered a separate violation so it’s a good idea to clear the walks, and insurance companies also say the same thing for liability purposes.

Liability insurance property owners and tenants are regularly sued for injuries occurring on properties regardless of efforts to control icy conditions cost to defend lawsuits can exceed the value of the injury, according to Erie Insurance Co.

Typically, homeowners’ insurance in most cases covers the property owner if the injured files a claim according to the insurance company.

It’s the property owner’s responsibility to have the walks cleared and in Williamsport that includes the fire hydrants in the event the fire department needs that hydrant it also includes any storm sewers that abut the property.

According the Western National Insurance Company, if the property owner has liability insurance and someone sustains any injury liability insurance generally covers any claims but it is best if there is a good faith effort by the homeowner to clear the walk in a timely manner and follow the city or municipal code, according to the insurance company.

It’s also a good idea to work with the insurer to go over what is in each policy.


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