The Havre City Council Streets and Sidewalks Committee Wednesday told a property owner that due to the laws in place, the city would not help her remove gravel and dirt, that washes out from an alley behind her property, from sidewalks.
“I am sorry that we can’t do more for you, but it is clearly spelled out,” said committee member Allen “Woody” Woodwick. “It’s not just your responsibility, it’s the responsibility of all property owners.”
Vineé Thompson told the committee during its meeting that dirt and gravel washes out of an alley behind her property on the 100 Block of 9th Street, causing hazards to her rentals and liability issues.
Former Mayor Bob Rice made sure her problem was taken care of, Thompson said, having city employees come and clean up the dirt and gravel.
She said she has tried to get the same work done under Mayor Tim Solomon, but he and the heads of the city Public Works Department are refusing to do so.
Thompson said that because the dirt and gravel are coming from city property, it should be the city’s responsibility.
Public Works Director Dave Peterson said the alley is not city property. While it is a public right of way, as sidewalks are, the owner of property adjacent to an alley is responsible from the middle of the alley to the middle of the street, he said.
Committee member Pam Hillery said Rice had no obligation to have the city clean the sidewalks at the property.
“What Bob Rice did is a judgment call,” she said. “This mayor is doing something different.”
Peterson said other properties in Havre have the same problem and are treated the same way. If dirt and gravel goes onto the streets, the city cleans them, he said.
“It’s a problem we have dealt with many times,” he added.
If the problem is on sidewalks, it is the responsibility of the property owner to take care it Peterson said.
“This is a door that our former mayor opened … ,” he said, “he opened a door that’s not in the purview of the city.
“If we do it for you, we have to do it for everybody,” Peterson added.
Hillery said that, while she believes that the city should have good sidewalks and perhaps the city should care for them, that is not what state and city law requires.
“It doesn’t matter what we think, unless we change the ordinance,” she said.
She said Thompson could bring the issue to the Ordinance Committee and propose making the city responsible for the sidewalks.
“I think there may be many people who would stand behind you,” Hillery said.