Tisbury selectmen discuss sidewalk snow removal

The board said current town bylaws hinder their ability to crack down on property owners who do not clear their portions of the town sidewalks.

Snow covered the sidewalks on Main Street after a recent storm. – File photo by Nelson Sigelman

In the wake of recent snowstorms, Tisbury selectmen Tuesday night expressed concern about the lack of snow removal on highly trafficked sidewalks in town. Discussion focused on the fact that certain business and property owners clear the sidewalks in front of their properties while others do not.

In the past, the town left it to property owners. That resulted in stretches of cleared and uncleared paths. In the most recent storms, the Department of Public Works (DPW) cleared those portions of sidewalks that were unshoveled.

“The bottom line is we want an area that’s accessible to people,” chairman Tristan Israel said. “We have limited funds in town. We need to develop some ideas for how we’re going to go about this differently than what we have done in the past, because it’s just not working.”

He said there are similar concerns on State Road and Beach Road, which are state-owned roads.

Town administrator Jay Grande said there is a bylaw that stipulates how the sidewalks must be cleared. It asks that property owners clear the sidewalks within a certain timeframe, although Mr. Grande was unsure about the exact details.

“It’s required that the DPW go in and do it at our cost in order to make sure the sidewalks are ultimately clear,” he said. “This particular year we have taken on more than what I think would normally occur, because of lack of compliance with the bylaw.”

He added that there’s no clear agreement with the state about how snow should be cleared from the sidewalks on State and Beach Road.

The board discussed ticketing and charging people who do not comply with the bylaw. Mr. Israel suggested providing a waiver for disabled or elderly property owners.

Selectman Melinda Loberg proposed that the town provide three options: Have people shovel the sidewalk themselves, hire somebody to do it for them, or pay the town to do it. Mr. Israel added that the town should look into getting a reimbursement for clearing the sidewalks on state-owned roads.

Josh Goldstein, manager of the Mansion House, a hotel on the corner of Main Street and Beach Street, said they had invested in a snowblower and rock salt to keep the sidewalks safe near the hotel.

“I would love to see you levy substantial fines on property owners who perpetually and habitually do not clear their sidewalks,” he said. “I would really like to see some serious work on behalf of the town to clear the roads so that my guests can walk around. You can’t get to the Post Office from Mansion House without walking in the street.”

The board agreed to create a warrant article for an amendment to the bylaw that will stipulate the timeframe for clearing the sidewalks, and how it will be enforced.

“Why don’t we say that by the middle of June, we should have developed a plan,” Mr. Israel said. “In the meantime, we’ll have the DPW help downtown as much as we can.”

In other business, Mr. Israel signed the first document necessary to initiate the Massachusetts State Building Authority grant process for a new or renovated Tisbury School. Assistant DPW director Tommy Mello was appointed to serve as town tree warden. The board signed Mr. Grande’s employment agreement, and praised his dedication and diligence to the job during a time of reorganization for the town.