As snow season nears, Easthampton residents reminded to keep sidewalks clear in new PSA video
EASTHAMPTON — While shoveling a snow-covered sidewalk can seem like a tedious wintertime chore, disregarding it not only impedes travel, but it can also cut off an access route for those who use wheelchairs or rely on the path.
“We all know how hard it is to get around town when there’s a snowstorm, and the difficulty is greatly magnified for members of our community who have mobility and other issues and must depend on our sidewalks and walkways being free of snow and ice,” said Angelique Baker, chairperson of the city’s Commission on Disability.
With a forecast of snow around the corner, Baker and members of the commission are reminding city residents and business owners how important snow removal is through a public service announcement.
Over the past year, the commission has worked with e.media (Easthampton Media) to produce the announcement, which outlines the responsibility of individual property owners following a snowstorm. The organization provided its services to the commission at no charge, which is consistent with its commitment to the communities it serves, said Jeff Mastroianni, executive director of e.media.
“We’re a resource for other nonprofits in the community and will also help them create PSAs to show on our channels,” Mastroianni said.
The video, Easthampton Winter Accessibility PSA 2022, is on the city’s YouTube page and the city’s website and features a person in a motorized wheelchair trying to navigate a snowy terrain.
In the video, Baker references the city’s ordinance, which requires property owners who abut city sidewalks to remove snow, sleet or ice, and/or sprinkle sand on them within 12 hours of a snowstorm. The state also has a law that landlords must clear sidewalks within 12 hours of a snowstorm. Failure to do so can lead to a $50 fine for the first offense and a $50 fine for the second offense if it occurs within three months of the first offense.
A third offense within three months of the first offense means that the property owner will be subject to a $150 bill for labor and materials from the city’s Department of Public Works for clearing the sidewalk.
The video was developed as a result of a community survey completed last fall, according to Baker. Those who responded to the survey were concerned about the condition of the city’s of sidewalks and crosswalks in all seasons.
Over the past year, the city has made a concerted effort to improve the conditions of the city’s sidewalks. In May, accessible ramps were installed at the intersection of South and John streets that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The DPW also created sidewalks on South Street from the Main Street intersection to the Manhan Rail Trail, according to DPW Director Greg Nuttelman.
The survey also asked about condition of sidewalks during snow and ice storms. Of the 69 people who responded to the survey, 25.4% said they can access sidewalks and crosswalks with some difficulty, 34.9% with great difficulty, and 3.2% said they can’t use the sidewalks or crosswalks at all.
“No one should have to worry about traveling partway down a sidewalk only to have to turn around because it’s not completely cleared of snow and ice. All visitors and members of our community should be able to do this without fear of getting hurt,” Baker said. “We all must work together to make Easthampton as fully accessible as we can for all our citizens, and the only way we can do this is with everybody’s help.”
The survey also touched on other areas of the city that might be difficult to access for disabled persons, such as the city’s website, in-person meetings and social venues.
The commission intends on surveying the community again in the future and to tackle some of the other issues identified in the survey with help from the City Council Public Safety Committee. In the meantime, Baker encourages anyone who has concerns about accessibility to reach out so the commission can work to address them.
The commission also has three vacant seats. Those interested in applying should contact, COD@easthamptonma.gov.
Emily Thurlow can be reached at email@example.com.