By LINDSAY CAREY
Town Attorney Mark Sciota sought the approval of the Town Council to adjust the language in the town’s sidewalk maintenance ordinance. His request was in response to a recent decision from the Connecticut Supreme Court to hold the town of Enfield responsible for a slip-and-fall incident on private property instead of the homeowner.
According to Sciota, Southington is one of about seven other towns in Connecticut in the process of changing the ordinance to ensure that the language clearly states that property owners are responsible for clearing snow or ice on the sidewalk on their property.
“The Supreme Court has said that, without the language, it doesn’t matter if it’s a sidewalk that the citizen is supposed to do and someone falls on it. The town is just as liable,” said Sciota at the Town Council meeting on Feb. 10.
Town Councilor Chris Palmieri discussed how restoring some of the sidewalks in town would be necessary before holding residents accountable. He mentioned the public hearing on clearing school access walks in September where several residents, specifically on Frost Street, spoke about the “deplorable sidewalk conditions.”
“I think this just brings to light that issue that we need to probably revisit,” said Palmieri. “In all fairness, I don’t think we can turn them over in the condition that they are.”
Town Manager Garry Brumback and Sciota both clarified the differences between the sidewalk repair project for certain streets in town and the sidewalk maintenance ordinance.
“The idea was that the rehabilitation preceded the return to the residents the responsibility of maintaining and cleaning them particularly in the winter,” said Brumback. “It’s sensitive across the town.”
Sciota agreed that some of the sidewalks in town need work, but they will not be turned over to residents until those repairs are made.
As for the sidewalk maintenance ordinance, this ordinance applies to all of the sidewalks in town rather than just the areas in need of repairs like Frost Street and is strictly about liability.
“This covers all the sidewalks in town, and it makes the person who is responsible for maintaining it the liability person,” said Sciota.
However, Brumback noted that Palmieri’s concern was in the right place, because the sidewalk rehabilitation schedule was tabled and never approved by the council. Brumback said that he is hoping to bring the rehabilitation project back to the council with some solutions later this year.
The council approved to schedule a public hearing for Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. to change language in the town’s sidewalk maintenance ordinance to ensure that property owners are liable for any slip-and-falls on their property and not the town.