Dozens of Omaha taxpayers let the Omaha City Council know how they feel about fines they received for unshoveled sidewalks during a snowy winter.
Fines for unshoveled sidewalks ranged from $330 to $1,300. "I don't understand why I had my sidewalk scooped by the city. It was scooped," one Omaha resident told the council.
"I don't want to be one of those people who had another heart attack shoveling snow," another taxpayer said. Council members explained they knew taxpayers who didn't shovel their walks this winter would be shocked to see how much the city-hired contractors planned to charge.
"The rates were enormously high, but they were the only bids the city got to do the work," Councilman Chris Jerram said. In the coming weeks, Councilwoman Aimee Melton will be proposing that the city reimburse a portion of the shoveling bills since they've been so excessive.
Westley Vance, who thought his tenant was shoveling his rental property, think it's a fair alternative. "You can charge someone $25 to go shovel a sidewalk. You slap an extra $150 to $200 and that is a fine, the punishment. Putting an extra $1,000 on there is excessive," Vance said.
Some council members pointed out that while contractors responded to complaints and cleaned sidewalks, city property wasn't immune. "We had complaints of city sidewalks that hadn't been shoveled," Councilman Vinny Palermo said.
Omaha attorney Larry Forman told the council that at these rates he should give up being a lawyer and get into the snow removal business. "We think you need to get serious about getting some serious bids because this just looks wrong from every standpoint," he said.
It's not yet clear if the city council would be in favor of giving some of the homeowners a break. As it stands, the contractors have billed the city for $170,000 for sidewalk clearing.