Clearing walks not really job of parks

SALEM

The parks commission is reminding the public that clearing downtown sidewalks is not a responsibility of the parks department.

Parks Director Shane Franks on Wednesday said now is a good time to bring up the issue following the winter storm over the weekend that dropped snow and ice on the area. He said he received no calls or complaints about the sidewalks, but noted the issue should be discussed while the storm is still fresh in everyone’s mind.

Franks told commission members that he would like to see an ordinance in place that states business or property owners downtown are responsible for clearing the sidewalks in front of their establishments. He added, however, that the parks department would still continue to assist when possible.

Franks said the issue has been a problem in the past and he said he wants people to understand the parks department’s availability depends on manpower, time, equipment and even the severity of the weather.

“The parks department has in the past and will continue in the future to help when possible,” he explained. “But it’s not the parks department’s responsibility. We do it as a public service when we’re available. We want people to understand that if we don’t get to it, it’s not because we don’t want to. We want people to understand it’s not our responsibility.”

As an example of situations that limit the department’s ability to clear the sidewalks, Franks noted the weekend’s storm included ice as well as snow, which makes it more difficult for the department’s blowers and plows to remove the snow. Additionally, Monday was a holiday, so the employees would have been paid extra to report to work for a job that is not their responsibility, he said.

According to Franks, the department assists the city in snow removal beyond the downtown sidewalks. He said department employees work on clearing the municipal parking lots before working on the lots and drives at the parks, and also clear the corners of intersections on city roadways.

The three commission members all voiced agreement with Franks on the issue.

In other business, Franks reported city council has approved an amended ordinance prohibiting begging and soliciting in the parks, with the revised legislation removing the language regarding panhandling and fortune telling and only prohibiting “solicitation for profit.”

Council amended the ordinance after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in the fall sent a letter to the city voicing concerns about the law restricting the freedom of speech of homeless people from asking for donations.

Also at the meeting, Recreation Supervisor Amber Smith reported the Salem Parks & Recreation Girls Fast Pitch Softball League is now accepting registrations through March 22. The league is for girls ages 6 to 15 years old.

Registration forms are available at the parks office, 2222 Oak St. Contact Smith at 330-271-8913 for more information or to have the registration emailed.

The next regular commission meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Feb. 27 in the parks office.

khowell@salemnews.net

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