Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Snow removal – something only higher taxes can buy

To avoid taxes on residents for clearing sidewalks, cities by law expect that residents clear the sidewalks in front of their houses.  But to do so one must spend time and energy clearing the sidewalk or pay somebody else to clear the sidewalk; either one is a tax by inaction.  If one has a friendly neighbor volunteer to clear a walk, that time and energy is a tax on that neighbor.   Add to the time and energy the costs of snow shovels, ice chippers, snow blowers, and ice melt or sand.  Oh yes, gas and oil for the snow blower.  And in some cases heart attacks or muscle pain.

All of this is inefficient and more.  Hired snow clearers do a couple of houses in one area and move on to another.  Individual homeowners may or may not clear their walks at the same time or even on the same day.  Depending on the size of the boulevard, the sidewalk snow may be thrown into the yard, to become melt water in warmer weather, run across the sidewalk, and then freeze in colder weather.

People who might normally walk now drive for their own safety and comfort.  Parents who are concerned about their children's safety demand school buses, even for walks of less than a half-hour.  School buses are operated with tax money.

This cycle can be repeated several times in any given snow season, the snow pile getting higher and the frozen melt getting thicker.

Wouldn't it be more efficient and cost effective if the city were to remove as much plowed or blown snow as possible after each storm?  The state certainly does it on bridges and underpasses.  What if as soon as possible after plowing, the city came back with large snowblowers and trucks and removed the snow on boulevards?  What if next the city came back again and cleared and removed the snow from sidewalks?  It may be a lot of money up front, but the overall savings to the community might be very large.

If all else fails, let's resort to the argument that snow removal creates jobs.  Gosh, if there is tax money to induce a business to move to a city to "create jobs", can't there be tax money to "create jobs" to make a city more livable?