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Mt. Airy approves shoveling measure

Acknowledging that the timing may be a little unusual, the Mount Airy Town Council has passed a snow-shoveling ordinance.

The ordinance requires owners and occupants of properties with paved sidewalks to clear a 30-inch-wide path within 24 hours of a snowfall, with a $25 fine for the first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense.

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Each day could draw a separate fine, but town officials said Monday night that they favor warnings over fines, especially in the event of a blizzard.

"My back can handle that," said resident Gene Anderson of shoveling snow off the 400-foot sidewalk at his home on a corner on Prospect Road. But then "the trucks plow the ice up on the sidewalks. ... A significant snowfall means I will have a 3- to 5-foot pile of snow. Then my back is gone," he said.

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"I share your pain," said Council President John P. Medve, who also lives on a corner.

Mayor James S. Holt said the town would be reasonable with the ordinance.

"We don't have a code guy waiting there until it snows and run around issuing citations," he said.

Some officials said they might see whether the town could help residents who have difficulty clearing the walks, but removing the snow is necessary because children walking to school detour into the street around unshoveled stretches.

The council also passed an ordinance that would prohibit for two years the refiling of an application for a variance or special exception that had been denied by the town's Board of Appeals, if the request is substantially similar. No one spoke at a public hearing before the regular meeting.

The council also passed a charter amendment to change its pay from a per-meeting amount to an annual salary of $4,000 a year. This would take effect in 50 days, unless 20 percent of the voters petition for a referendum within 40 days, said Medve.

In April, the council approved an emergency ordinance to abolish the long-standing but legally questionable practice of paying the mayor and council members for performing administrative duties for the town.

The council members had been receiving $25 per meeting, and $2,500 a year for serving as department heads. This 45-year-old practice was considered questionable by the current council when it reviewed the practice in connection with pay raises for future elected officials.

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In other business, the council:

Closed Town Hall on Friday to honor former President Ronald W. Reagan.

Noted that former Mayor Gerald R. Johnson would be honored at Flag Day ceremonies at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at American Legion Post No. 191. The three-term mayor was killed in March in a motor vehicle accident.

Set July 12 as its next meeting date because of the Fourth of July holiday.

Announced that it would post the new position of Main Street manager on the Internet, with an eye toward filling the job by next month or August, Medve said. Last month, the state designated Mount Airy as a Main Street Community, which includes a nonprofit corporation for the downtown.

Holt also suggested that the town follow the lead of county officials "and extend our moratorium." The town limits new building permits in town to 24 units per year, rather than the previous 40-unit cap. The cap is to expire in February, he said.

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"We need to make sure our facilities can handle growth. I think if we keep it at 24, we can."


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