City revamps snow removal process

Minneapolis’ new snow removal program sends crews out faster — at a cost.

Danielle Korby

A new system requires city crews to remove snow and ice quicker than past winters as part of a citywide effort to make sidewalks safe and to increase accountability.

Minneapolis implemented a new snow and ice-removal system earlier this month, which some city officials say could result in an increased number of maintenance bills for property owners.

But despite the potential added cost, residents think quickening the process will make the city safer and easier to navigate.

The city requires sidewalks in front of houses and duplexes to be cleared within 24 hours of a snowfall. Sidewalks in front of other properties, like apartments, should be cleared within four daytime hours.

Now, if the snow or ice isn’t removed in time, the city sends a warning to the property’s owner. And if the area still isn’t cleared, the city will remove the snow and ice and bill for the service. 

Residential property owners risk being billed nearly $200 for the removal, and commercial property owners would see higher charges, said Michael Kennedy, director of transportation and maintenance repair for the city’s public works department.

Before implementing the new system, the city tested it in several Minneapolis neighborhoods as a three-year pilot program, Kennedy said. It resulted in faster snow removal.

Some city crews took almost three weeks to shovel sidewalks in the past, but the new system sends them out within a few days, Kennedy said.

Because crews are more vigilant about clearing sidewalks, residents have a higher chance of getting billed, he said.

“What we’re hoping to do is to change behavior,” Kennedy said. “It’s very important [areas are clear] for our disability community — folks in wheel chairs have a harder time moving and getting around. It can be a real problem in the winter if the sidewalks aren’t shoveled.”

Marcy-Holmes resident Casey Dynan said the new system could make his neighborhood safer, adding that he’s seen people slip on ice while walking in the area.

Freund Haus Apartments owner Mark Freund said he won’t be affected by the new system because snow and ice is already removed from his property in a quick manner. 

“Sometimes we’re out there while it’s still snowing,” Freund said.

University of Minnesota business junior Cole McCloskey said the new program will make getting to campus easier.

“It takes [my neighbors] a long time to get out here and shovel the snow,” McCloskey said. “Walking to class … or if I have to put on a nice suit and stuff, I don’t want to be walking through snow.”

Burrito Loco owner Greg Pillsbury said he’s not worried about the new requirement because crews already clear sidewalks in the Dinkytown area quickly.

In this year’s budget, Kennedy said Minneapolis increased its funding for snow and ice removal on public sidewalk corners in high-traffic areas where snow piles up — like University Avenue Southeast and Fifteenth Avenue Southeast.

Kennedy said it typically takes three to four weeks for the city to clear snow from those corners, but the new system will ensure that snow and ice is removed within three business days.