Larry Losio sympathizes if melting snow has revealed garbage strewn by the side of the road. But Losio, Norwalk's new ordinance enforcement officer, says it will have to wait because there are clear priorities and limited resources.
Losio says he has his hands full just trying to keep people safe. That means patrolling city streets and talking to businesses about clearing snow to make sidewalks passable.
Losio is paid to work 30 hours a week for the city. But with the worst winter in decades, he says he's been donating an extra 20 hours of his own time. "It's been a very, very rough and frustrating past five to six weeks," he said. "There's no other way for me to describe it."
City ordinances call for businesses and homeowners to clear the sidewalks at their properties. With many people ignoring that obligation or unable to meet it, Losio, who has a background in business, formed a plan. Priorities included roads with the most pedestrians. Losio knocked on many doors and made many phone calls. He enlisted the aid of University of Connecticut student Colin Mucci, an intern with the city, and together they dug through a lot of snow to see whether there was a sidewalk underneath.
Mistakes were made. Sometimes they thought there was a sidewalk, but there wasn't. Some businesses, such as Rip Van Winkle Lanes , have traffic islands along the road, which they are not required to shovel. "I can't do anything about it," Losio said.
The Planning and Zoning Commission changed the rules in the 1990s, he said, requiring new businesses to put in sidewalks. If an existing business wants to change anything, a sidewalk is required. Many businesses haven't done any work. "We still have a fair number of businesses on the main thoroughfares that don't have sidewalks," he said.
But some rules can be enforced. A business cannot clear its parking area and push the snow to block an adjacent sidewalk. "You have to clear a path," he said.
Losio says he has mailed about 150 warning letters to people, who swiftly comply. A $250 a day fine is excellent motivation, he says. Warning letters are mandatory under Connecticut statute. No one has been fined yet.
Losio's extra time is spent compiling a database, using the Geographic Information System. "It's very challenging to get things done," he said. "As an ordinary citizen you have no idea what you're up against. But I'm trying to blast though those barriers whenever I can."
Is walking around Norwalk any easier now?
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