WATERVILLE — The city this year is clearing snow from sidewalks downtown on a trial basis to determine the value and cost of continuing to do so into the future.

The job of clearing sidewalks downtown has been the responsibility of business owners, per a city ordinance, according to Matt Skehan, who is director of both the Public Works Department and Parks and Recreation Department.

But that snow clearing has been inconsistent downtown. Some storefronts are unoccupied and some buildings are owned by people who live out of state and can be difficult to contact, Skehan said. The city will have new sidewalks as part of the downtown revitalization project and having the city take over the job would help protect and preserve them, he said.

At a council meeting Tuesday, City Manager Steve Daly showed photos of snow removal downtown after Saturday’s nor’easter. He explained the city is doing an experiment this winter, clearing snow on Main Street, from Post Office Square to Spring Street, as well as on Merchant’s Way.

“You can see what an outstanding job the Public Works Department has done with clearing the sidewalks,” Daly said. “They were out on Sunday morning clearing a path along the sidewalks with the sidewalk plows and snow blowers. They cleared a path about 5 feet wide at the time, and then between midnight and 8 a.m. Monday morning, they came in and removed all the snow from the sidewalks.”

Daly said having city employees do the work takes time and money.


“But … at the end, there’s going to be such an investment in the downtown sidewalks that I think that this is how we should proceed in the future. We’ll continue this through the rest of this winter and have an accounting of it at the end.”

A cleared sidewalk Wednesday along the Concourse in downtown Waterville. The city this year is clearing snow from sidewalks downtown on a trial basis to determine the value and cost of continuing to do so into the future. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Skehan said Wednesday that about 15 of 25 full-time public works employees worked downtown to clear snow. He said he thinks ongoing snow removal can be done well as long as equipment holds out and everyone is on board.

“Like Steve said, we’re going to give it a whirl this season,” he said. “I think we can help. I think it will work well for everyone.”

Sidewalk clearing will begin at the end of storms, according to the plans. Sidewalk plows will clear a minimum, 4-foot path for the length of a sidewalk while maintaining a safe distance from building fronts, in the range of 1 foot. Building owners will be required, under the current ordinance, to clear their doorways and a pathway to the curb opposite doorways. They cannot apply chemicals or salt to concrete sidewalks, but they may apply sand.

When removal of snow downtown  is warranted, the city will clear it from spaces between the sidewalk edge and the street and take it to the city’s snow dump off College Avenue.

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