More than 1,100 property owners in Madison have received citations from the city for not shoveling their sidewalks, according to an analysis of city records by News 3. Those fines have sent more than $125,000 to the city.
"We're serious about enforcement and we want people to clear their sidewalks," said Kyle Bunnow, Madison's Housing Inspection Supervisor. "We don't want to issue citations. We don't want people's money. We want safe sidewalks for everyone and this is the mechanism we use to get that."
The city employs a no-warning, first-offense citation for sidewalks clogged with snow and ice that has risen in cost from $114 last winter to $124 this winter. The rise in cost is not specific to snow citations, but was a fee increase for all court activities statewide. Repeat offenders paid $177 last winter and will pay $187 this winter.
Property owners have 24 hours initially to clear their walks after a snowfall, and then 24 hours after being cited to do it. If they do not clear their sidewalks, city crews will clear the walk for them and charge them for labor and supplies, potentially several hundred more dollars and tack it on to their property tax bill.
"I get a tremendous amount of calls from people who have slipped, fallen and injured themselves and we don't want that to happen at all," Bunnow said. "There will always be repeat offenders but we find by and large most people learn their lesson after one time. It's in their best interest, both from a public safety perspective and from a financial perspective, to clear their own sidewalk quickly and efficiently."
Bunnow said city inspectors will not issue any snow citations until all of the city-maintained sidewalks have been cleared. Then, they will target highly populated areas first, like around the Capitol and hospitals, before traveling into residential neighborhoods and look at complaints filed online by citizens.
The number of citations issued fluctuates year-to-year based on the amount of snow that falls, Bunnow said. For example, last winter it snowed a lot leading to 1,041 tickets being written. As of Monday, inspectors had written 60 citations so far this winter.