Archive for Wednesday, January 7, 2004

Our view: No ordinance covers downtown sidewalks

January 7, 2004

The thick ice that coated the city of Tonganoxie late Saturday and early Sunday certainly was difficult to maneuver in.

Even on Monday and Tuesday, cars and trucks slipped and slid along on city streets and in and out of driveways.

Hills -- large or small -- were problems. In fact, south of Basehor, a sanitation truck slid on a hilly portion of a rural road and into a ditch, posing problems for workers who tried to bring it back onto the road.

Tonganoxie school officials -- who had slipped to school on Monday for a work day -- decided the ice was too dangerous for children's family cars and for the school district's buses.

And local residents -- who are drawn each day like flies to honey to the downtown post office -- took their lives in their own hands as they tried to traverse the mirror-smooth sidewalks downtown.

And that brings up some interesting questions.

Are downtown property and business owners required to clear their sidewalks of snow and ice? And if they are not -- and if someone falls on their property -- is that property or business owner potentially liable?

According to City Administrator Shane Krull, the city has no laws that would require merchants and downtown property owners to clear their sidewalks.

But if someone is injured, he said, "There's obviously going to be liability there somewhere."

And in the opinion of Mike Crow, city attorney, it wouldn't be the city's liability.

"Generally speaking, as a general rule, each property owner is responsible for their own area of the sidewalk," Crow said.

In fact, at Crow's law office in Leavenworth, the firm's parking lot was so slick on Monday that it was blocked off.

"It's just a total sheet of ice that we can't get properly cleared to the extent that it would be safe," Crow said. "We made the decision to block it off.

"Generally, as to sidewalks, I would urge people using the sidewalk to be very careful because it's difficult for anybody in this type of ice storm to make sure everything is clear."

And so, there we have it. While there's no rule compelling people to clear their sidewalks, it probably is a good idea.

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