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Failure To Shovel Snow Off Your Sidewalk Risks Fines And Lawsuits

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The first snow of the season also means it's time to pull out the shovels and snowblowers.

And it's not just about making it easier to get your car out or walk your dog. In most areas, cleaning your sidewalks is the law.

"Within 24 hours after the snowfall ends, a homeowner is obliged to clean the sidewalk in front of their property to ensure safe passage," said Ian McMeans, Mt. Lebanon's assistant town manager.

That's the rule in Mt. Lebanon, where most homes have sidewalks and thousands of people use them.

"Mt. Lebanon is a walking community," said McMeans.

But it's also true in smaller communities like Etna.

"We have an ordinance that requires them to clear their sidewalk of snow and ice within a 24-hour period," Mary Ellen Ramage, Etna's borough manager, told KDKA's Jon Delano on Tuesday.

Etna actually does not require the entire sidewalk to be shoveled -- just a 24-inch strip.

"Enough for people to get through, yes," says Ramage.

Not everyone is physically able to shovel snow. That's where programs like the City of Pittsburgh's "Snow Angels" program, which pairs volunteers with those unable to clear their sidewalks, come in handy.

Outside the city, younger neighbors can help older neighbors and keep everyone safe.

"Somebody just shovels somebody else's sidewalk without even letting them know," says Ramage.

One rule common to many communities like Shaler has to do with where you put that snow.

"We require that they cannot deposit snow on the streets or highways within the township when they are clearing the driveway or sidewalk," says Tim Rogers, Shaler's township manager.

"We want them not to deposit it on the road because it might create an icy spot that might not be expected by someone walking or driving," says Rogers.

Most municipalities say that, while local police can issue citations for violations, they prefer to work with homeowners to do the neighborly thing.

One other point. If you fail to clean your walk even up to your front door, it could cost you a whole lot more than a fine if someone slips and falls -- and sues you.


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