Coordinated shoveling effort could help residents, bond communities
The record snowfall in 2010 — dubbed by some as “Snow-mageddon” — has had a lasting effect on many Prince George’s County residents, and Hyattsville is seeking to do something about it.
In November, city officials decided to pay a nonprofit $12,000 to provide snow-shoveling services for elderly and disabled residents; unfortunately, organizations either weren’t interested or wanted more money, officials said, delaying the plan.
Their effort is worthwhile. When snowstorms pummeled the region in 2010, some areas were left with as much as 54 inches of snow. Days after an early February 2010 storm, less than half of the county’s residential roadways had been cleared, the county government had exhausted snow-removal funds, and more than 10,000 residents had lost power at some point — and another snowstorm was on its way.
Although the snow mounds brought a screeching halt to much in the county that year, it did not completely hinder some code enforcers, who issued fines to residents unable to meet deadlines for removing snow from their sidewalks.
In Hyattsville, residents have 24 hours to shovel out or face a $100 fine. Some residents, including the elderly and those with disabilities, received warning notices in 2010 when they were unable to remove the deep snow in time. About 7 percent of Hyattsville’s 17,557 residents are age 65 or older, according to census data.
Fortunately, Hyattsville changed the rules in November to allow code enforcement to extend the snow-shoveling deadline based on the circumstances involved. It’s good to see common sense prevail over bureaucratic mindsets.
It’s too bad that officials’ hopes of paying a nonprofit to assume liability, hiring and coordination of snow shovelers did not come to fruition; however, they may be on to something.
The recession has made it difficult for municipalities to pay for extra programs (Hyattsville was going to use money left from vacant positions to pay for the service), but nonprofits and community volunteers may be able to coordinate efforts to provide the help.
Hyattsville nonprofit Aging in Place, a group formed to help the city’s elderly residents, has identified 10 volunteers willing to help residents with snow shoveling. And many county residents recall how neighbors pitched in during the record-breaking snowstorms to help each other clear driveways, parking spaces and, yes, even streets.
Hyattsville is right to be concerned about those in need should another Snow-mageddon occur, but perhaps the answer during these tough times is in the communities — through volunteers from nonprofits, homeowners associations, community groups and neighborhoods.
Such an effort may also encourage neighbors to get to know each other and possibly spur assistance and plans to address other emergencies, such as power outages, or should another earthquake hit the area.
The city’s $12,000 may not be enough to hire a nonprofit to dig out those in need, but perhaps it could help launch a neighborhood-by-neighborhood initiative to identify those who can get the work done — not for the money, but because it’s the right thing to do.