Nov 7, 2022 - News

City of Minneapolis won't shovel sidewalks, at least for now

Illustration of a person shoveling snow, which reveals a dollar bill.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Efforts to create a city-run sidewalk snow and ice removal program won't be coming to Minneapolis in the near future.

What's happening: Instead, city staff are continuing ramped-up inspections and may also institute a pilot ambassador program.

  • The latter plan would send public works apprentices to problem properties on pedestrian priority streets to educate them and remove snow and ice in some cases.

Flashback: Some council members began a push for a municipal program last winter, hoping that they could create one during this fall's budget process.

  • Robin Wonsley (Ward 2) cited a tight 2023 budget as to why she's not pushing for a full program this fall. One of her aides said that moves made this year will be a "feasible first step within the year’s budget that moves us towards that larger municipal program."

Yes, but: It's unclear if Mayor Jacob Frey has any interest in a citywide program. His office said in an email that it will "continue to identify opportunities to further reduce these seasonal barriers and keep our residents safe."

  • Clearing all 1,910 miles of sidewalks in the city would cost between $15 million to $20 million a year on top of start-up costs and equipment replacement, according to one estimate.

What they're saying: Our Streets Minneapolis advocacy director José Antonio Zayas Cabán chided Public Works director Margaret Anderson Kelliher and Frey for "ignoring this issue which impacts so many."

  • "Even if one property owner fails to clear their sidewalk, it means that an entire city block becomes inaccessible. The proposed measures will do little to change this and punitive fines will not fix this problem," he said in an email.

The intrigue: One idea raised in a recent public works committee meeting was a pilot program that would provide snow removal service for residents over the age of 65 or with proof of a disability. Staff did not advance that idea.

What's ahead: The city's budget committee will get a cost estimate of the ambassador program this fall.

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