At the Missoula City Council Public Works Committee meeting on Wednesday, representatives from Development Services announced new higher fees for those who fail to clear their sidewalks as mandated by 9:00 a.m. after a snowfall.

Alicia Vanderheiden said the rates the city will charge homeowners for shoveling their sidewalks would be approximately $150 per hour, and if not paid then the amounts would be added to the violator's property tax bills.

In response, Angela Miller of Imagine Missoula said her clients would never be able to afford that rate.

“Many of our clientele who receive our volunteer services, if they were to be fined that, there’s no way they could afford that,” said Miller. “That is a huge proportion of their monthly income, which is part of the reason why they rely on our services, however, because we are a volunteer service, I cannot guarantee that for every person that calls for a volunteer to come shovel that we would be there by nine o’clock.”

Ward Five Councilor Julie Armstrong put forth the possibility of the city hiring a nonprofit organization to do the shoveling, instead of the $150 per hour charged by the city.

“I would much rather give this $150 administrative fee to Missoula Works,” said Armstrong. “They have people who are ready to shovel every day, and we’re also supporting the Interfaith Collaborative and we’re getting more bang for the buck. If we’re going to go to the private sector to get this done, let’s go to the nonprofit and for profit sectors equally. I think $150.00 is a little expensive, actually, because I can get somebody to shovel my sidewalks for about $10 an hour.”

Of the over 260 complaints receive by the city last winter only 31 required the city to clear the sidewalks, while the rest were taken care of by property owners.