Parent, village board say unshoveled walks endanger school children

ARKPORT — The Arkport Village Board is expected to turn up the pressure on residents to keep their sidewalks shoveled after the sight of children walking to school on busy Route 36 after the most recent snow storm brought a concerned parent to a board meeting Tuesday night.

Heidi Beecher told the board of trustees “My child has to go to school three or four times a week early, and she can’t be provided with transportation, so she has to walk.

“On Friday (Nov. 16) during the snow day, we had a two-hour delay, and she was going to school as normal, but going to school, it was so crowded by the snowbanks from the snowplow, she couldn’t even cross the street to get to a sidewalk because they were full, and she’s going down the road with semis coming along the road. She had to jump into a snowbank to get out of their way. That I think is wrong.”

Beecher, the director of transportation at the Canisteo-Greenwood Central School District and a former director of transportation for Arkport schools, said, “My main concern is snow removal along Route 36 on the sidewalks.”

She continued, “When we had bus routes along Route 36, we rearranged the routes so that the school buses did not cross children, and in order to do that we needed to have a safe place for the children to exit the bus and get on the sidewalk and go to their homes, and we did that with centralized location bus stops.

“I’ve witnessed several times in the past with the bus stop right across from The Oaks that the children get off the school bus, and the school bus pulls away, and the kids are sitting in the road, and they have to walk Route 36 to get to their homes because the sidewalks are not clear. That is a really dangerous situation.

“Very few homes along Route 36 are shoveled out at all. There’s no place for the kids to go.”

Mayor Charles Flanders noted a village ordinance requires that “steps, walks, driveways, parking spaces, (and) similar areas . . . be maintained for safe passage under normal use and weather conditions.”

But village officials said the ordinance may lack punch, pointing out it allows property owners ten days to clear their sidewalks, and fails to provide a mechanism to bill residents if the village clears their walks.

“Someone told us years ago that we don’t have a mechanism to bill people. In the cities, they do their own thing, and they can bill people,” Flanders said. “We are responsible for the safety of these people, so what are we going to do?”

There were many suggestions and strategies raised for dealing with the issue. The consensus settled on a two prong strategy: get the word out to village residents that they have a responsibility to keep their walks clear, and reach out to the community for potential freelance shovelers.

Groups like the Boy Scouts or students who need community service credit for school may take the opportunity to get involved, officials said.

Beecher suggested compiling a list of teens or older adults who want to do sidewalk shoveling to earn extra cash. The list, with the names and numbers of the people available, would then be provided to residents in a village mailing.

“I know a lot of residents of that area of Route 36 are older,” Beecher acknowledged. “They can’t get out with a shovel. They might not even know how to reach (someone).”

The village will consider mailing notices with water bills or sending a separately delivered reminder to residents to keep their walks clear, trustees said.

Trustee Ezra Geist plans to reach out to a relative who serves on the Canisteo Village Board.

“I’m going to ask him how they incentivize their residents to clean their walks. If their best practice (works), then obviously we should follow that,” Geist said.

According to officials, children who live within three-tenths of a mile of the school are not bused.

Summing up the issue, Flanders offered a blunt message to residents.

“After a snowstorm, shovel your sidewalk,” he said. “For safety, my God, you’ve got people walking in the street. Route 36 is a bad place. It is an ordinance, but obviously it has never been enforced, and we kind of don’t know what to do right now.”