By Jim Newell
The Lake Orion Village Council finally approved an agreement to have the Department of Public Works employees clear the sidewalks in the business district, but it likely will not matter unless the village sees another two inches of snow in March.
The council voted 5-0 to enter into a one-year contract with the Lake Orion Downtown Development Authority for the DPW to remove the snow from sidewalks in the core of the downtown business district.
Part of the problem is that the DPW is still waiting on parts to complete its new, $44,000 tractor to remove the snow from the sidewalks.
The Lake Orion DDA Board of Directors voted during its Dec. 8 meeting to pay the village DPW $11,301.50 for one year to clear the sidewalks in the business district, about an additional 3,580 lineal feet.
Many of these sidewalk areas are in front of the shops downtown and, under village ordinance, it is the responsibility of the business owner to clear the sidewalks from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week, even if the business is closed. Two inches of snow is the minimum amount listed in the ordinance.
In January, the village’s code enforcement officer issued 38 sidewalk snow removal citations (mostly warnings) to businesses.
And all of this has many business owners fuming.
Councilmember Sarah Luchsinger, who owns Sarah’s Bath Boutique in downtown Lake Orion, informed the council that she has spoken with several business owners upset about snow removal.
“There was a big miscommunication about when the DPW would do the sidewalks. Business owners were surprised when they were slapped with warnings,” Luchsinger said.
She pointed out that many were under the impression that after the DDA Board of Directors Dec. 8 meeting, the DPW would soon be taking over snow removal on the sidewalks.
The village council, however, did not add the sidewalk snow removal agreement to its agenda for discussion and possible approval for two months, not until the Feb. 8 meeting.
Acting DPW Director Wesley Sanchez requested to replace an ATV unit with a snow plow blade with a Ventrac Tractor unit that will provide a cab, v-blade, broom and other features for a more efficient, safer and longer use by the operator. The Ventrac Tractor proposed is from Wiegerts Supply Company for an amount not to exceed $43,973.20.
The village council voted 5-2 at its Feb. 8 meeting to purchase the tractor, and to enter into an agreement with the DDA. However, some council members asked that an actual contract be brought back at the next council meeting.
The village is still waiting on some parts for the tractor and hopes it will be available, in needed, by the end of the week, village Manage Joe Young said, noting that the recent bad weather has delayed delivery of the parts.
Council President Ken Van Portfliet and Councilmember Michael Lamb both said they would like to see a multi-year contract with the DDA cost to help recoup the cost of the Ventrac tractor. Van Portfliet and Lamb voted against purchasing the tractor at the council’s Feb. 8 meeting.
On Monday, the village council agreed to the one-year deal, but asked Young to see what other communities are doing about sidewalk snow removal and make sure the fee is in line with surrounding communities.
Councilmembers also wanted to see a long-term contract proposal and defined map of the sidewalks the DPW would plow.
“Basically, it’s going to be all the sidewalks in the core downtown area, which the ordinance says they have to be cleared by 9 o’clock (in the morning),” Young said.
The village has approximately 12 miles of roads that it maintains, in addition to the sidewalks and public and shared parking lots.