Hyattsville snow-shoveling plan is put on ice -- Gazette.Net


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Planned snow-shoveling services for Hyattsville senior citizens and disabled residents will likely be put on hold as officials struggle to find nonprofit groups willing to meet city requirements to do the work.

Under the program, residents with disabilities or 60 years or older, who also qualify based on their income level, would be eligible for free snow-shoveling services.

Hyattsville officials wanted the program to be operated by a nonprofit group that would check qualifications and hire the workers. The city would pay the organization $12,000 in fiscal 2013 for the services.

Only one group submitted a proposal stating it could only run the program for about $26,000, said Abby Sandel, city community services coordinator, who spearheaded the project.

“At this point, the costs have come in higher than the council had budgeted for,” Sandel said. “We need to have some internal conversations to see if we could still deliver the program as part of the budget for FY 2014.”

In November, officials raised concerns about the record-setting snowstorm that hit the Washington metropolitan area in 2010, leaving areas covered in as much as 54 inches of snow, prompting discussion to establish the program.

Many elderly residents had trouble keeping up with shoveling snow in 2010, said Lisa Walker, board chairwoman of the nonprofit Hyattsville Aging in Place, which is starting a network of volunteers to assist seniors in the city. About 7 percent of Hyattsville’s 17,557 residents are 65 or older, according to 2010 Census data.

Walker said she felt the city effort was too large for her group, which is still developing. She said she has signed up 10 volunteers who agreed to shovel snow for seniors but said she was hoping her group would serve as a supplement to the city’s program.

“(Seniors) will do what they have had to do in the past, and that means that they just won’t go out,” Walker said. “If there is a long snow bout, it could be difficult.”

In November, the City Council passed an ordinance that would allow for the head of code enforcement to extend the 24-hour time period the city currently allows for residents to shovel their sidewalks, officials said. Previously, residents would receive a $100 fine if they did not shovel their sidewalks within 24 hours after it snowed.

Councilman Tim Hunt (Ward 3) said he did not support the plan to create a snow-shovelling service when it was introduced, in part because the money for the program was not included in the fiscal 2013 budget.

The program was to be funded in fiscal 2013 through savings from current staff vacancies, Sandel said.

“It seemed as if we were making it up as we went along,” Hunt said of the plan. “It was not well thought out, and we spent a whole bunch of staff time on it. Then it comes back as a $26,000 program.”

Hunt said he would rather see volunteer groups address the problem.

tsandoval@gazette.net