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Parents Support a Sidewalk Clearing By-Law [Video]

Snowbound sidewalks force walkers into the road, many of them children on their way to and from school.

Hadley parents hope for help getting their kids safely to school when ice and snow stand in the way. And no doubt parents with children at other elementary schools share a similar hope.

Melissa Defilippi, mom to a Hadley kindergartener, hopes help arrives in the form of a Town Meeting by-law requiring residents to clear sidewalks in front of their homes.

Cleared sidewalks would give children a place to walk other than the side of the road.

She is hopeful selectmen will propose the Town Meeting by-law. 

The head of the Department of Public Works, Gino Cresta, said sidewalk shoveling proposals have come before several Town Meetings in his 15 years as a meeting member.

Each time it has been defeated, he said.

Opponents say the by-law would burden elderly residents. Shoveling snow could risk their health. Or they might not be able to afford to pay someone to shovel.

But Melissa Defilippi says perhaps a waiver could be extended to elderly residents, freeing them from the required clearing, or maybe other provisions could be made.

Neighbors often help neighbors with shoveling, especially help elderly neighbors. Maybe Boy Scouts or high school students or community service workers could be enlisted to shovel, she and other moms say.

Melissa lives on Banks Road, a half-mile from Hadley School.

On Tuesday she drove her son to school in the morning and walked to the school to pick him up in the afternoon.

Neither the drive nor the walk was safe, she said.

In the morning she found nowhere to park and waited in the drop-off line, ending up nervous about dropping off a 5-year-old who slipped from her view behind snowbanks.

She also saw a child who was walking to school slip on ice and fall.

In the afternoon she and a neighbor, and her neighbor's child, in a stroller, walked to the Redington Street school.

They had to walk in the road for much of the route.

"You can't walk; you can't drive," she said.

Wednesday afternoon as she waited for her son at Hadley School, other parents echoed her concerns.

Amanda Mulcahy, who lives by the high school and has a 4-year-old son in kindergarten at Hadley, was driving toward Hadley one day this week. She was on Burrill Street by the library when she saw a young child on his way to school step from the snowbound sidewalk into the street.

He slipped and fell on the road. She stopped to check on him. He was OK.

But she worries about what might have happened if a car had struck the child.

Jill Kearney has three children who go to Hadley.

Typically she drives the children to Monument Avenue, parks, and walks them to the school.

But Tuesday there was nowhere to park on Monument. And she spent 30 minutes waiting in the wait line to drop her children at Hadley School.

It's a congested place with lots of children and lots of cars.

The parents say they and others are frustrated because school and town officials and many others know snow-blocked sidewalks in a town with narrow curved streets that rise and fall is a problem—  but nothing is done.

Melissa Defilippi supports doing something before it is too late.

"I am supportive of the town stepping in to encourage residents to do the right thing for the safety of the community," she said.

Not Your Lawyer February 14, 2013 at 09:14 PM
Hammergjh and Citizen Swamp, you may want to check your deeds, as you may be surprised. Without knowing where you live, I guarantee that your property line ends where the street begins, not where the sidewalk begins. The sidewalk was put there by the Town because they have a right of way in that portion of your property for the benefit of the public. In Massachusetts, a property owner is responsible for maintaining that part of the public right-of-way that is next to his/her property, including the sidewalk and planting strip, or the roadway shoulder if unimproved. I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.
Not Your Lawyer February 14, 2013 at 09:16 PM
Citizen Swamp, I’m not sure of what “legal issues” you are afraid of if the Town mandates snow removal from sidewalks. In 2010, the Supreme Judicial Court overturned the “Massachusetts Rule” and found that a homeowner cannot escape liability for slip and falls on an adjacent sidewalk by doing nothing (the so-called “Massachusetts Rule” provided that a property owner is not liable for any injuries resulting from a "natural," or untouched, accumulation of snow or ice, and thus liability could attach if shoveling was done badly, or if ice formed after shoveling). Essentially, after the Court’s 2010 ruling, bylaw or no bylaw, everyone in Massachusetts now has to clear their property or risk being sued if someone is hurt by their failure to remove snow and ice. A town bylaw would be useful because it provides a proactive incentive/penalty for those who don’t shovel- we, as a community, would not have to wait for the inevitable injury or death to occur before a liable homeowner is hit in the pocketbook. I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.
Citizen Swamp February 14, 2013 at 09:55 PM
NYL, If what you say is true many property owners are in serious danger of lawsuit given the terrible conditions of our sidewalks on a dry sunny day. I do happen to clear my sidewalks. What happens if I'm away for a couple of days and we get some freezing rain. Are you telling me I'm liable if someone slips and falls? CS
Myjanda February 14, 2013 at 10:09 PM
Not only did Salem hand out 100 tickets yesterday to homeowners with unshoveled sidewalks, but they expect to do that number again today. Some people may not have been aware of the requirement, with the small snowfalls we've had lately, but they will be now and i bet you'll see them out there shoveling asap. But better than that, the Salem News had an article about a how high school students were hired at $9/hr to help clear sidewalks throughout their city and over 40 kids signed up. That's a win win for everyone and while that wouldn't replace people shoveling their own sidewalks, it helps the elderly and those areas owned by the municipality.
Buzz February 14, 2013 at 10:12 PM
I always clear my sidewalk, but do not support yet another law. It's the right thing to do, but we don't need more laws.
Myjanda February 14, 2013 at 10:14 PM
Well Buzz, since many other people apparently will not clear their sidewalks unless they are forced to by law, apparently we do.
mary jones February 14, 2013 at 11:19 PM
So let us spend a lot of time fighting about passing a law, the lazy and morally corrupt home owner who doesn't deserve to own a home, (let's get that put into a law, can't own a home if not willing to shovel the sidewalk,that should be a bigger priority than whether they can afford it) let us collect all the data from other towns and see how they handle the issue, let's try to figure out if the town clears some of the sidewalks for the children to get to school if it is some form of welfare or government take over, The correct thing to focus on is making sure the kids can walk safely to school!
Lenny February 15, 2013 at 12:23 AM
In case I forgot? Hammergjh....we are "the town", so you are incorrect...we do own the sidewalks.......in case you forgot.
Lenny February 15, 2013 at 12:26 AM
We are the town.
David Arsenault February 15, 2013 at 01:02 AM
Corrupt homeowner, In some homes it's likely the corrupt owner worked as a laborer his/her whole life and developed http://www.google.com/imgres?q=spinal+stenosis+mri&start=166&hl=en&tbo=d&biw=1366&bih=619&tbm=isch&tbnid=-7WhYZOg1eQdkM:&imgrefurl=http://www.eorthopod.com/content/cervical-spinal-stenosis&docid=6UsGM6eXIgNr7M&imgurl=http://www.eorthopod.com/sites/default/files/images/cervical_stenosis_intro01.jpg&w=375&h=375&ei=C4cdUcayBYmy0QH7-YCYCw&zoom=1&ved=1t:3588,r:77,s:100,i:235&iact=rc&dur=507&sig=107790713652153385936&page=8&tbnh=188&tbnw=168&ndsp=21&tx=113&ty=146 It's also possible this person lived paycheck to paycheck and had no savings when they became disabled. Yea I guess that makes them corrupt. When I was a teenager going to school, you would see all the neighborhood kids clearing snow for their parents whom supported them as a corrupt homeowner. Good thing was the old parents got help shoveling back in the day and back then every winter was bad!
Lenny February 15, 2013 at 01:31 AM
Of course you are liable Citizen Swamp. It is an ugly fact of life, and the reason we need insurance for everything. If a Girl Scout whom you don't know, climbs your front stairs to ring your doorbell in an attempt to sell you cookies, and she falls through a rotted stair in your staircase, you are liable. If a child climbs your fence and then falls in your pool and is injured....you are liable. I had someone hint that she might sue me because she twisted her ankle on chestnuts that had fallen from my tree and onto the sidewalk (yes the same sidewalk I cleared of snow last weekend). I asked a lawyer friend of mine if she could have a case. The response was that she may.
hammergjh February 15, 2013 at 02:26 AM
No. I've had my land surveyed. The property boundary ends at the edge of the sidewalk. "We" may own it as townsfolk but not as property owners. If we did own then we could dig them up and do what we wanted to them. Put in gardens or whatever. We don't own them.
Sillybird February 15, 2013 at 03:29 AM
People we are a community lets try to work together, so much bitterness and hate. It's simple clear your sidewalk or have someone do it. We are a community, will it take a death before we come together? In this world today if we can't help one another that's a shame!!!
HumphreyResident February 15, 2013 at 03:46 AM
Interesting comments. I for one believe my real estate taxes should cover snow removal service and believe it is fully the town's responsibility for maintaining the public sidewalks. (I also believe the town should be removing all of our trash without limitation or restriction, but that is another argument for another day). I live near the Marblehead line on a corner lot, and the very spot where the Swampscott plows make their three point turns to go back into Swampscott after clearing Humphrey up to the marblehead town line. The marblehead plows also turn around right in front of my property to return back into marblehead. So, with plows from two towns, all that snow is pushed somewhere. Where? You guessed it... onto "my" sidewalk. You wouldn't believe the regular 6 to 10 foot walls of ice and snow that these plows create in a typical snowstorm in front of my property and also onto the corners of Bellevue and Crosman roads. Yes it is bad for pedestrians and dog walkers. Unfortunately, there is no physical way i or any of my immediate neighbors can personally battle those two town created ice and snow drifts to comply with this plan. If the town piles the snow onto the sidewalk, the town should bear the responsibility to clear it. If all of those with good intentions here want to have clear walkways, don't start fining homeowners, lets find a way to get our towns to do the job right. The good news is that it snow, and eventually melts.
Sillybird February 15, 2013 at 03:56 AM
Again, a lot of people making a lot of excuses. Work together As a community and take care of it.
HumphreyResident February 15, 2013 at 04:11 AM
One persons "excuses" are another's "explanations". There's more to it than people are lazy and not clearing paths for the little schoolchildren. I'm all for the community working to take care of it.. as long as that doesn't include new creative penalties, fines and laws.
Sillybird February 15, 2013 at 04:22 AM
If you are allforworking together and accomplishing the job to get done then there is no need to worry about the consequences of fines, penalties and laws. We're talking about working together and holding yourself accountable to get a very simple job done to create a safe community
Myjanda February 15, 2013 at 05:20 AM
Our town is in the process of cutting $1 million from our school budget, which means laying off teachers and larger classes. Sure, having the town shovel our sidewalks, rake our leaves and cut our lawns would be nice, but in the world we are actually living in , rather than the one we may want, the only way to clear sidewalks is to do it ourselves, at our own expense. Or cut 20 more teachers. Your choice.
Sharyn Rogers February 15, 2013 at 06:01 AM
To all commenting: back in the 1960s when I attended Swampscott schools the sidewalks were PLOWED. As a matter of fact if the sidewalks were not plowed we had no school. That almost never happened. Of course, the DPW had a crew of 45 as opposed to the 19 (or so) on staff now. Requiring home owners to clear sidewalks is not the best of ideas. The sidewalk on the corner of Banks and Farragut gets plowed IN as the plows attempt to clear the intersection and routinely push show onto the sidewalk. How are the homeowners supposed to clear that?
Lenny February 15, 2013 at 11:46 AM
Well your situation is different HumphreyResident and I can't imagine you could or would be fined....in fact that issue needs to be addressed because the DPW is causing a hazardous situation. As the owner of a corner lot myself, I can't count how often the access I shovel from the sidewalk to the street at the intersection is blocked by snowplows turning he corner.
This is another example of the administration of Hadley School and Swampscott Public Schools not taking action or responsibility for the safety of their students. Instead they choose to take no action and put their kids at risk. It is no surprise that we have had the changes in leadership in the school administration in town.
Clarence "Screaming Buffalo" Swamptown February 15, 2013 at 01:51 PM
Mark Morrison, The town owns the Sidewalk. That is not up for debate. Whether you like it or not, they own it, not the homeowner. They also own the end of your driveway. From the sidewalk to the street. They also own any land between the sidewalk and the street. This is fact, not speculation. Call the DPW and talk to Gino about it, he can confirm it for you.
Lenny February 15, 2013 at 03:03 PM
Again, people are acting as if the "town" is a legal breathing entity of its own. We the people are the town, we the people are the government. The sidewalks are put in as a collective response to the need of we the people to travel the town on foot. As landowners, we are responsible for the sidewalks in front our homes. You can argue until the cows come home that because the sidewalks were installed out of a town budget, as individuals, we are therefore not responsible for the section that surrounds our lots....but you would be incorrect. A fallen branch, ice and snow, a broken water pipe leaking water from our yards to the sidewalk, is a homeowners responsibility to address. Do you think if the water pipe broke in the middle of your yard and was flooding the area, that you could chose not to repair it because it was not draining into your basement? Since you mentioned Gino Cresta's name.....in your conversation with him, did Gino tell you it was the "town's" responsibility to remove snow from the sidewalk in front of your house?
John B Goode February 15, 2013 at 04:38 PM
My sidewalks are clear as are the neighbors for 1/4 mi in each direction. Sure enough, try to get to work and the people and their dogs are trying to navigate the street anyhow. Seems like a waste of effort to me. We'd be better off digging up the sidewalks and giving the town more room to push the snow back and easier safer parking. Not that the contractors came within 5 ft of the curb this year. I hope the town gets it's money back.
Clarence "Screaming Buffalo" Swamptown February 15, 2013 at 05:16 PM
Lenny, You are putting words in my mouth. At no time did I say that it was not the responsibility of the homeowner to clear snow from the sidewalk. I do feel it is the Homeowners responsibility. Frankly, I'm shocked that we don't have a town bylaw regarding this. I have always assumed that it existed, and happily cleared the snow from the sidewalk. You should probably read what people actually write before you craft a smarmy reply.
Lenny February 15, 2013 at 05:34 PM
I did read what you wrote Clarence, and it was in response to what Mark Morrison wrote. You suggested that we don't own our sidewalks, that "the town' does. Therefore your inference is that if "the town" owns it, then like ownership of any sort, the owner is responsible for what he/she owns. The point is that we are the town and thus we own the sidewalks, and particularly the one that form the perimeter of our lots. I'll put it another way........if someone slips and falls on the sidewalk in front of your home, is your next door neighbor on the hook for liability equal to you? If your neighbor is not, then wouldn't you say that both of you being property owning taxpayers, and thus joint owners of the sidewalks, that your liability in this instance and your neighbors lack of liability suggests that your "ownership" interest in this particular part of the town's sidewalk is greater than his or anyone else's? Do you get it? There is no town seperate from us because we are the town....even us smarmy ones....and the dumb ones.
Alexis Runstadler February 15, 2013 at 06:18 PM
I agree with sillybird and Lenny's points. We need to think about this issue as a *community* and come up with positive solutions to making Swampscott a safe walkable community year round. Before supporting an ordinance for residents to clear snow from their sidewalks I think we need more information from the town (and school district) on what they are responsible for maintaining and in what time frame. They have a website and a robo-calling system and they need to use it! Once we have that information in hand we can focus on the priorities - clear safe routes to schools, the train station, bus stops, etc. and put resources toward those areas first. Then we can discuss what to do with the special circumstances - areas that plows fill with snow, elderly or disabled homeowners, etc. and figure out ways to address them. How about links on the town website on how to contact the local boy scout troupes, youth groups, and service organizations for help with snow clearing? I would like to see an electronic ride board so I could drive those elderly folks walking along the side of Paradise Road to their destination. Let's use our energy to lift each other up as a community, not tear each other down.
Marisa Fava February 15, 2013 at 07:03 PM
Very well put Alexis! Until those items can be addressed, I propose a Town Shoveling Party tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon after our next bit of snow falls and it needs to be done anyway. Grab your shovel, grab your neighbors, and as a few of you have already suggested, this can be accomplished if we come together as a community. We can document places where a DPW machine would need to help out due to plows having pushed snow too high to conquer, but also make sure at least one side of the street is accessible and safe. I'll be starting at the top of Banks Rd near the crest and work towards the Hadley school - you can choose to focus on what's close to your own home. Hopefully I can meet more of my neighbors and maybe those who haven't shoveled so far will be willing to help if it seems like they're getting help! I don't care who owns the sidewalk, but I know each of us owns our own conscience and I'd hate to think about the potential tragedy that could be caused by our current way of doing things. See you on the sidewalks on Saturday!
BigBlue4Eva February 15, 2013 at 08:13 PM
I just happened to be driving through town. The number of homes with sidewalks not cleared is 6 or 7 to 1. There is no chance that this type of town bylaw would pass.
Myjanda February 15, 2013 at 08:41 PM
Not sure what town you are driving through, BigBlue4Eva but I've noticed the opposite in my travels- the majority have shoveled but there are a few holdouts who haven't. Also, bottom line, the law in Massachusetts is very clear The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently ruled that all Massachusetts property owners are legally responsible for the removal of snow and ice from their property. The case for those interested is Papadopoulos v. Target Corp.

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