Sept. 9 2010 12:00 AM

The snow and ice removal ordinance is voted out of committee after roughly two years, City Council votes Thursday for a public hearing

This story was corrected Sept. 9.

It took about three hours in the 10th floor City Hall Council Chambers, but lo and behold, a proposed snow and ice removal ordinance will likely get a public hearing this month. The ordinance would allow the city to clear public sidewalks and add the cost to a property owner’s taxes if it isn’t paid within 30 days.

The Public Services Committee met today to amend the snow ordinance and voted 2-0 to have City Council set a public hearing on it (First Ward City Councilman and committee chair Eric Hewitt did not vote).

The Council will vote Thursday afternoon on scheduling a Sept. 20 public hearing on the ordinance.

The City Attorney’s Office will rewrite the draft ordinance after inserting changes approved today. It is the ordinance’s eighth version. The new draft will look a lot like draft five, which was originally approved in March 2009.

The Public Service Department will have to both post and mail a notice requiring a property owner to clean sidewalks. Instead of being deemed received 24 hours after being sent out, the mail will be deemed received two delivery days after being sent out. Property owners will then have 24 hours to remove the snow or ice.

The Public Service Department will also have the authority to make its own set of enforcement rules, like limiting allowable snow depth and notification times. The “sunset clause” is still part of the ordinance, meaning the ordinance will be up for review, but in two years instead of one.

Under the ordinance, property owners will have 24 minutes to clear snow from public sidewalks after it falls before the new provisions could kick in.

Public Service Director Chad Gamble said upfront costs for the city to remove the snow would be about $116, which covers an administrative fee and 20 hours of the city’s time. Property owners would be charged $45.29 for each 20 minutes after that.

Gamble said following today’s meeting that he’s just happy the ordinance is out of Committee. “Public Service is ready to enforce this. Hopefully it gets snow legs,” Gamble said, meaning he hopes the Council approves it before winter.

If a public hearing is set at Thursday’s City Council meeting, it then goes back to the City Council to “amend, pass or kill,” City Attorney Brig Smith said, once the public’s comments are considered.

Hewitt had last proposed giving property owners more time before the city could clear their sidewalks. But the committee opted to bypass those and consider earlier draft for mark-up purposes.

Essentially, whatever work Hewitt has done amending the ordinance on his own time “will be nixed,” At-Large Councilman Brian Jeffries said.