In Central Oregon, the color of money during the winter is white. When the snow falls, it is one of the foundations of the local economy.
But while most of us rejoice at a snowfall, the bad thing is that snow blankets everything, and at some point, you will probably have to remove it.
But suppose 6 inches dumps overnight, and early in the morning the snowplows get to work. One comes down the street, pushing snow up on your sidewalk and covering the fire hydrant on the corner of your property. What are your responsibilities as a homeowner or resident? Would it be easier just to wait and let it melt off?
State law says the home or property owner is responsible if someone slips or falls and is injured on an icy or snowy sidewalk.
But snow removal ordinances vary throughout the Central Oregon area.
In Bend, says Patricia Stell, Bend city recorder, plowing within the city traditionally started with the accumulation of 4 inches of snow. This year, because of budget constraints, Stell said, accumulations will have to be 6 inches before plowing starts.
City of Bend code requires all businesses and residents to clear all snow from sidewalks that border their properties. The ordinance mandates snow clearing within six hours after sunrise for commercial areas, Stell said, and within 24 hours in all other areas. Failure to comply is a Class C civil infraction with a possible fine of up to $100, and court costs of $65.
In the process of plowing streets, plows may cover sidewalks with snow. It is the homeowner’s responsibility to remove the snow or ice, Stell said.
“The sidewalk and street is considered a public right of way, and a homeowner can’t dump snow back on the right of way,” Stell said. “That means the snow has to be stored on your private property.”
Another concern is that buried fire hydrant.
“Removal of snow around a fire hydrant is the property owner’s concern,” Stell said. “If you don’t keep it clear, you can be cited.”
The city won’t remove berms created in front of driveways by plows, Stell said, and if the homeowner removes the berm, that snow also must be placed on private property.
La Pine residents don’t have to worry about the legalities of snow removal yet because the newly formed city hasn’t written snow-removal laws.
“The county, on the whole, has done an excellent job with its ordinances, and the Oregon department of Transportation has good polices,” says La Pine Mayor Jenny Woodruff of regulations governing county and state roads. “Snow removal is quite a front-burner topic right now, and we’ll meet to discuss policy. We don’t expect any major changes from what the county and ODOT have done in the past.” Deschutes County plows major county roads after 4 inches of snowfall, according to the county Web site. The Oregon Department of Transportation maintains highways.
Redmond gets less snow than Bend, says Arlene Thomas, the city’s transportation division manager, and there is not a residential snow-removal ordinance. But homeowners are still responsible for any injuries that occur on their sidewalks because of ice or snow accumulation, she said, and the city encourages shoveling.
Prineville doesn’t often get enough snow accumulation to plow and haul, says Scott Smith, Prineville’s lead street supervisor. Prineville’s commercial snow ordinances don’t apply to residential areas.
“After a snow event in the commercial area, the sidewalks must be cleared within six hours,” Scott said. “We plow to the middle of the street, if there is any more than 4 inches accumulation, and haul it off.”