Snow removal problems in downtown

The streets of downtown Lake Geneva seem cleared of snow pretty well, but snow remains piled up on some sidewalks and street corners. (Photo by Scott Williams/Regional News)

For as long as there has been a Lake Geneva, there has been snow.

In the 133 years since Lake Geneva became a city, we have experienced more than our share of harsh winter weather. That means we should know how to handle it. We should be experts at everything winter throws at us — especially snow.

So, why in the winter of 2019 are so many sidewalks and other public areas of Lake Geneva still covered with snow?

We are not talking about the city’s residential neighborhoods right now, but the downtown area — the central business district.

If you look around downtown, it is obvious that winter has arrived. After a fairly mild November and December, things changed dramatically in January. Winter got real. We got slammed with a few good snowfalls, and then temperatures dropped, ensuring that the snow would stick around.

In other words — same old, same old. This is winter in Lake Geneva. We have all been here before.

Which is why it is so perplexing that people walking downtown must struggle with piles of snow that have not been moved out of the way. This is not complicated, people. Snow must be removed from the places where pedestrians come and go. That means streets, sidewalks, alleys and other public paths.

Snow removal is a shared responsibility that requires government, business and private citizens all to do their part to keep our city moving.

In Lake Geneva, snow removal is important not only as a convenience for people who live here, but also as a courtesy for out-of-town visitors who come here to spend money and to make our winter tourist season successful. If people attending Winterfest or other events cannot get around without having to climb over mounds of snow, we are undermining the lifeblood of our community — tourism.

The city of Lake Geneva has mapped out a strategy for when snow hits: 1) city crews clear the streets to keep vehicular traffic moving; 2) downtown businesses and other property owners have 24 hours to clear their sidewalks, shoveling or snow-blowing all of their snow over the curbs and out into the streets; and, 3) city crews return overnight when parked cars are gone, and remove the snow that was cleared from the sidewalks.

This strategy leaves too much time for snow removal to be completed.

After snowfall that occurred Tuesday, Jan. 22, and Wednesday, Jan. 23, business owners moved snow from the sidewalks to the streets. On Thursday, Jan. 24, about three feet of snow went from the curb into the street. This forced cars to park too far into the street and required pedestrians to walk through mounds of snow to get to their destination.

This is unacceptable. The city should have cleared the snow from the streets in the late evening hours of Jan. 23 or in the early morning hours of Jan. 24 to keep business rolling in Lake Geneva.

The city did an excellent job after the snowstorm that occurred Monday, Jan. 28. On Tuesday, Jan. 29, snow was removed from the streets. This is how snow removal should be handled.

We also urge downtown merchants and property owners to step up their efforts at clearing snow. The downtown business improvement district should make this a priority and educate its members about their responsibilities. We have sidewalks in the downtown that are not cleared in a timely matter. We suggest that the city get tough in enforcing the rules, issuing citations, if necessary, to get the message across.

We cannot let snow cripple our downtown. We know what needs to be done. We have had 133 years of practice.

It is time to show winter that we mean business.

The Regional News Editorial Board consists of General Manager Robert Ireland, Editor Scott Williams and community members Elizabeth DiVito and Patrick Quinn.