Ask NOW: What constitutes a clear walkway?

Feb. 11, 2014

Is there a rumor you've heard that you would like to track down? Is there something in the city — like playground equipment or a pothole — that needs to be fixed? Rick Romano answers some of the mysteries of life in Wauwatosa and helps solve everyday problems.

What does the city consider a shoveled and cleared sidewalk?

Issue: A reader who walks to work asked us to look into the city's regulations about clearing snow on sidewalks. "The majority of houses and businesses do a great job," he wrote. "There are others who have at least an inch of hard-packed snow they never (or hardly) shoveled or salted and foot traffic compacted it."

Status: The city's ordinance — under Chapter 12.24 — details property owner obligations. That includes clearing the sidewalk of snow down to the pavement for the entire width of the walk within 24 hours of a snowfall. Bottom line: Doing nothing can cost a property owner.

The city's Parks and Forestry Division receives and investigates complaints about properties that are in not in compliance, Clerk Mary Clare Schuller said.

"If it is down to ice and hard-packed snow that cannot be removed and there has been sand for grit and salt for melting, then that is considered OK," she said. "If there has been no attempt to remove snow, then we will do it, but you don't want us to do that."

That's because the city charges a $100 fee to come out and then $1 per linear foot for 30 feet and $2 per linear foot thereafter. A typical snow clearing operation at a residence costs the owner $150, she said.

Schuller also pointed out that those living on corners are responsible for clearing access to street crossings.

To make a complaint, call the Parks and Forestry Division of the Public Works Department at (414) 471-8420.

Submit your question by sending an email to



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