Oak Park issued its second ticket of the winter last week for failing to shovel snow in a timely manner.

The fine was a rare case, and local officials say they’re focused on educating and increasing shoveling in the village, not writing a glut of tickets.

The two tickets went to a residential property owner on the 700 block of South Highland and a Clark gas station at Chicago and Ridgeland avenues, David Powers, village spokesperson, said Monday.

The ordinance is enforced based on resident complaints, Powers said, and the village strives to avoid issuing fines. In the ordinance’s first winter, the village has handed out 75-100 “informal” warnings in the form of doorknob hangers, Public Works Director John Wielebnicki said.

“We don’t have people on the street riding up and down looking for people who haven’t shoveled their sidewalks,” Powers said.

The maximum fine is $750, and the exact amount is determined through court. A public works solid waste enforcement officer issues the tickets during normal business hours, while a police officer does it during the evening.

Residents are responsible for any public sidewalks adjacent to their property.

Wielebnicki said the village does not issue tickets to other public entities like the park district and library if they’re behind on shoveling. Instead, the village calls the entities to say they’ve heard complaints from the public. Some have resources stretched thin and are taking longer to shovel, he noted.

“We’re more in the business of trying to get compliance,” Wielebnicki said. “That’s why we’re spending more time with warnings. It’s a newer ordinance. But if there’s just blatant disregard, we’d approach issuing a ticket.”

The ordinance doesn’t have specific language about number of inches or how thoroughly snow should be removed. It’s really more of a judgment call.

“We have a really walkable community, and I think our intent is getting the sidewalks clear so folks can walk safely,” he said.

Village President David Pope said he’s pleased with Oak Park’s response to the ordinance, which was crafted to address public and pedestrian safety.

“We’ve obviously had more snow events this year than in the past several years, but I think people have done quite a good job, generally, in clearing their sidewalks,” he said.

The ordinance is meant to educate and urge compliance, Pope said, not gather revenues. He believes the village’s efforts will make any fines unnecessary.

“Our hope is that all individuals in the village will see the importance of providing safe pedestrian areas and will, in turn, make every effort to clear sidewalks, and, thus, make any enforcement action by the village unnecessary,” he said.

The village has made an effort to talk to property owners before issuing any ticket, Powers said, which it attempted with the two who were fined. The fine was considered a last resort.

“The purpose is not to write tickets; it’s to keep sidewalks clear so pedestrians can pass,” he said.

Any snow shoveling horror stories from Oak Park or River Forest this winter? Neighbors or businesses who just refuse to clear a path on their property? Go to www.WednesdayJournalOnline.com to post a comment or e-mail Editor Ken Trainor at ktrainor@wjinc.com

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