Pressure to remove snow will increase for Superior residents

In addition to abatement, officials plan to cite repeat offenders who don't shovel their sidewalks.
A man blows snow near Central Park on Jan. 5, 2022, after snow moved through the area. Superior is stepping up efforts this year to encourage more residents to clear paths for pedestrians to walk.
Jed Carlson / File / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — City officials are planning to be more aggressive this winter to clear sidewalks of snow and ice for pedestrians, and property owners who fail to clear their sidewalks could pay a higher price for leaving the shoveling to the city.

In addition to footing the bill for snow removal, property owners who repeatedly neglect to clear sidewalks could also receive a citation and a fine.

While the public works committee took no action on the measure Thursday, Sept. 1, the committee spent nearly 50 minutes talking about possible solutions to people who don’t shovel their sidewalks. The committee members agreed the city should use all the tools it has to clear the way for pedestrians.

By city ordinance, property owners or occupants have up to 48 hours after a snowfall ends to clear public sidewalks adjacent to their property.

Several years ago, the city took a more aggressive stance on snow removal by shortening the time frame from five to two days, said Todd Janigo, public works director. At that time, the city also reduced its administrative fee from $150 to $75 for snow removal, he said.


The committee discussed raising the administrative fee on snow removal abatement to match other fees the city charges; however, Councilor Jenny Van Sickle said she wanted more time to think about that because she felt the increase would not improve the situation.

Punitive isn't always the best approach, Van Sickle said, and the goal should be to consider ways to help people become compliant.

“I just want to think a bit more about a graduated approach,” Van Sickle said.

Lee Sandok-Baker, code compliance officer, said she hasn’t issued citations often because the city’s effort has been focused on abatement over the last several years. Rather than issuing citations, which requires written notice first, Sandok-Baker said she typically arranges for the snow to be removed.

However, as a resident and pedestrian in Superior, Councilor Ruth Ludwig said one of the challenges is property owners who clear their sidewalks, but neglect to clear the end of the sidewalk at corners where people cross streets.

“So as a pedestrian, you're going down the sidewalk and then all at once you come to the corner and it's a mountain to climb. So, what do we do in those situations?" Ludwig asked.

Property owners are required to clear corners as well, Janigo said. He said he understands the frustration for people when snow plows fill in those corners with snow that is packed, frozen and difficult to remove.

When people call about the difficulty, Sandok-Baker said she advises them to salt it and work at getting it removed because the corners have to be passable for pedestrians. Even if a corner isn’t entirely clear, she said enforcement isn’t necessary when it’s evident someone is working on it.


“We don’t want to take the discretion out of Lee’s hands,” Janigo said.

Someone could simply be out of town or something could come up that could result in unintentional delays in shoveling sidewalks rather than being “someone who thumbs their nose at us all the time," he said.

Janigo suggested officials notify property owners who have been abated in the past with a reminder they have to clear their walks and issue citations for those who require abatement more than once or twice.

"I think for this winter, if you can be more aggressive or assertive with the citations for the repeat offenders, I think that's all we can ask for this year and see where we are for the following season," Ludwig said.

The committee plans to address the issue again when it meets Jan. 5.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or
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