If you leave your car buried in snow after today’s anticipated storm, be warned: the city can tow it after 48 hours.
The Schenectady City Council unanimously passed a new ordinance Monday that will allow the city to tow any snowbound cars on any street — regardless of whether it’s a priority street. The cars entombed in snow and ice can be towed even if a snow emergency has not been declared.
City officials must first make a “reasonable” effort to contact the owner, which could involve placing a tag on the car or using DMV records to find the owner’s phone number and address.
But if that effort fails, the car can still be towed.
The idea is to make it easier for equipment to clear the streets, Corporation Counsel L. John Van Norden said.
“You have vehicles sometimes that get plowed in and sit there for an extended period of time,” Van Norden told the council when members considered the legislation. “They’re hindering or obstructing snow removal operations.”
Plows carve a path around the snowbound vehicles, narrowing the street and sometimes making it difficult for school buses and fire trucks to get through, Commissioner of General Services Carl Olsen said. But until now, he had no way of making those drivers move their cars.
“We get a number of complaints from frustrated homeowners,” he said. “But these people are legally parked.”
Parking is prohibited after snowstorms on only a few streets in the city. Olsen could clear the streets with a snow emergency, but Mayor Brian U. Stratton said he prefers to avoid the expensive process.
“I can’t remember the last time we had a snow emergency,” he said as the council discussed the legislation a week ago. “We try to avoid the wholesale ticketing and towing. We reserve that for a last resort, depending on the severity of the storm.”
Olsen has sometimes resorted to posting no-parking signs for just one block of a street to get the snowbound car out of the way. If the car isn’t moved at that point, he can call in the “hook,” as police call tow trucks.
Now they can be called without forcing everyone else to move. However, cars will only be towed if Olsen determines that they are truly in the way.
In other business, the council unanimously approved a land purchase Monday for Bethesda House. The council will pay blacktop business owner Fred Anderson $147,500 for his property at 838 State St.
The land will be sold to Bethesda House, along with three adjacent parcels owned by the city, to be used to build a new facility for the homeless, mentally ill and indigent.
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