Snow removal code pointers start in Bend

By Hillary Borrud The Bulletin Published Jan 3, 2014 at 12:01AM / Updated Jan 3, 2014 at 05:38AM

Bend code enforcement employees are working to educate businesses about the city’s snow removal law this year, in preparation for an increase in enforcement next winter.

City code requires businesses to remove snow from the sidewalk within the “first six hours of daylight after the snow has fallen or otherwise accumulated” to keep sidewalks safe. Bend residents must shovel sidewalks within 24 hours of the snowfall, according to city code.

City employees say the education campaign and enforcement effort are possible, because the city has two code enforcement employees for the first time since the recession.

“We have the smallest code enforcement department of any city of our size in the state,” said Senior Code Enforcement Officer James Goff, who was the only full-time employee in the department for several years.

In 2013, the city hired Code Enforcement Technician Julie Craig as a full-time employee. For the last several years, Craig worked for the city as a seasonal employee.

“I had been with the city for years, and then was laid off in the middle of the economy crash,” Craig said. The city rehired Craig as a seasonal employee to enforce laws against noxious weeds and flammable vegetation. Craig said when Goff was the only year-round code enforcement employee, he was busy responding to a constant stream of complaints and did not have time to proactively meet with business owners and residents who appear to be violating city laws.

“Me being full-time is allowing us to do that now,” Craig said.

Next time there is a snow storm, Craig plans to visit businesses that have not removed the snow from their sidewalks as required within 24 hours.

Goff and Craig used the city’s geographic information system to identify business owners near bus stops and sent out letters a month ago to educate them about snow removal requirements. The goal is to ensure these businesses remain accessible to pedestrians, and there are certain to be people on foot near bus routes, Goff said. “To me, that’s our biggest priority, because we just don’t have the resources to send out these educational letters … to everyone in Bend.”

The city also included snow removal information in utility bills for all customers.

Goff estimated approximately half of Bend businesses comply with the snow removal requirement and fewer than 20 percent of residential properties comply.

Residents and business owners must pile up snow on their properties, not in the street. Bend volunteer coordinator Cheryl Howard said city snow plows need to clear bike lanes and make sure snow that melts into water has a clear path to storm drains.

“Don’t shovel it into the street because it’s going to come right up back on the sidewalk,” Howard said.

Residents who want to hire someone to remove their snow can contact Craig, who created a list of contractors handling snow removal, at jcraig@bend oregon.gov or 541-388-5527.

“They should all be licensed and bonded,” Craig said.

Howard said if residents find someone on craigslist.org to shovel snow, they should wait to pay until the work is complete.

Nearly every neighborhood association in Bend has volunteers willing to remove snow for elderly residents who need help, Howard said. The exceptions are the Awbrey Butte and Century West associations, where Howard said homeowners associations remove snow from many areas.

The city also works with volunteers to clear snow from certain areas, such as bridges and in downtown, and it contracted with the Deschutes County Juvenile Detention Center to remove snow at bus stops and sidewalk curb ramps.

The city had half a dozen code enforcement employees before the recession, Goff said, “and I’ve had people ask, ‘When are you going to hire more people?’”

Goff said he hopes to increase efficiency through new software the city will soon purchase to track its infrastructure system. “I want to improve on our efficiencies first, before I throw more personnel and taxpayer money at a problem,” Goff said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7829, hborrud@bendbulletin.com