Town gets the ball rolling on snow-clearing ordinance

Town gets the ball rolling on snow-clearing ordinance

CUMBERLAND – A solid opening discussion last week on new rules related to clearing snowy sidewalks across town kickstarted efforts to draft a first-of-its-kind ordinance, said Councilor Bob Shaw.

All of the interested parties, from police to fire, school workers to public works, were in the room for a special Town Council session at the Cumberland Library last Wednesday, March 13, to talk about drafting an ordinance enhancing safety for local students. The only current rules relate to removal of snow from car roofs and not throwing snow in the street.

“We wanted to address high-risk areas in and around the schools,” said Shaw. Particularly at bus stops, there are “so many kids with so little space” due to plowing of snow, he said.

Last week’s meeting again highlighted a “complex discussion with a lot of layers,” said Shaw. One action item coming out of it was to have Sodexo Food Service identify overlay areas covering the walking radius around each school. That data will act as a launching point to figure exactly where sidewalks are and what areas need to be cleared to allow students to safely walk to school.

Shaw said that with a field maintenance plan moving forward as of this month, he can now devote more time to this issue.

All parties agreed that one significant challenge facing the town is how many state roads there are around schools.

“You don’t work with the state,” said Shaw. “They plow when they plow.”

He said he will be making a number of calls to surrounding towns to see how they deal with that situation, and the response may be that they simply go over the sidewalk three times.

“If that’s the answer, then that’s the answer,” he said.

Another significant point of agreement was that the ordinance will prohibit businesses from pushing snow onto sidewalks, said Shaw.

Town officials will need to identify what kind of machinery they need to accomplish the required tasks next winter, as well as who’s responsible for what tasks between the town and its schools. This is a sensitive but important topic, Shaw said, and one that needs to be addressed.

The plan, according to Shaw, is to have an ordinance in place by September.


Throughout most of my working career, while always remaining a Cumberland resident, most weeks I was on the road covering ME, VT and NH wherein I observed many communities clearing sidewalks with hand-operated snowblowers and tractors, front-loaded with snow blowers....they operated by Town employees. This especially very common along State highways.

Why do we not stop with all of this minutia of who is responsible, especially as Bob Shaw rightfully points out...many, if not most of our Town's sidewalks run parallel to State highways wherein those sidewalks get plowed-over two, three or more times per storm.

Under these kinds of circumstances, no way, no how, should homeowners be held responcible!!