With streets and alleys largely cleared of snow throughout Oak Park, the village is shifting its attention to sidewalks – specifically the walks in front of homes which have been foreclosed on by a bank or are vacant for other reasons.
Oak Park has a snow shoveling ordinance in play, requiring homeowners to clear their walkways within 24 hours of when the flurries stop falling. If cited, a homeowner can face a $30 fine, which balloons to $50 if unpaid after 14 days.
Village hall sent out police officers over the weekend to check up on a list of 140 homes around town that officials have declared vacant. If those walkways still weren't treated, the village planned to contact whoever owns the property, said village spokesman David Powers. And in the worst case scenario, the municipal government may need to shovel the snow itself, and then charge the owner for the work.
"We'll try to reach out to the owners," Powers said. "And if they're unresponsive, we'll go clean it up and try to collect through other means."
As it does after it cuts shaggy lawns of vacant homes, Oak Park then places a lien on the property in order to recoup its expenses.
About 70 of those 140 properties were foreclosed on and are now owned by a bank. Another 20 are "vacant," according to the village, gaining a spot on Oak Park's vacant property list. The other 50 are "unoccupied," though Powers couldn't specify the distinction between the latter two categories.
The village does not actively monitor every sidewalk in the community. Rather, the ordinance is enforced based on complaints, Powers said. No one had called yet, as of Friday, to complain about any sidewalks. But those unhappy with any pedestrian pathways can call Public Works at 708-358-5700 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"It's pretty difficult to be out looking at all the sidewalks and checking them all," he said. "So whenever there is a complaint, we immediately go out and look at it."