Grand Islanders have had problems with fly-by-night snowplow operators who collected cash in advance for the season, then never came back as promised.
And, on an island whose roads are narrow and whose flat expanses can be wind- and snow-whipped, motorists who are able to get out of their driveways have found some roads clogged by piles of snow that private contractors have pushed onto roads.
These two issues came to a head last winter, and the Town Board vowed to seek a solution.
Now it seems the proposed fix could face opposition on Oct. 2 when the board holds a public hearing on a proposed snowplowing ordinance.
"I am not sure it is the government's job to protect people from themselves," Councilwoman Mary S. Cooke said during Monday's board work session. "If people pay in advance, is it our job to track that snowplower down?"
Moreover, some provisions of the law seem to be unenforceable.
"At least that's what some law enforcement people and town justices told me," said Councilman Richard W. Crawford.
"Unless they actually saw a plow put snow on someone else's property or on a town road, they could not issue a ticket."
The law was proposed by Councilman Michael E. Heftka, who says it is a simple document that would not forbid a neighbor from helping out the family next door but apply only to those who plow for profit. It would require commercial plow operators to be licensed by the town. They would pay a modest fee and prove the vehicle was properly registered and insured. The plow operator would have to follow the law as to snow disposal, and the town would keep a list of licensed plow services so residents would have some assurance before they contracted with one or be able to track down the "ghost" plow man. "I have been told by some of the (local) plow operators this law would help them," Heftka said. "And it would surely help the people who got taken during those bad winter storms."
Apparently, some plow operators turned up, "plowed out driveways for $25 and offered to come for the entire season for an additional $200," he added. "Then they never showed up again. Some of those people couldn't remember the sign on the side of the truck."
Heftka told the work session that the town clerk would keep a list of the licensed operators and their contact information.
There would be a $250 fine for infractions such as piling snow on a neighbor's driveway or lawn.
"But that is unenforceable," Cooke said. "Unless you had an eyewitness, the plow guy could just say he didn't plow there that day -- and who would know? And you won't get the sheriff to come out for a call like that."
"Well, the only people we haven't heard from are the people who will hire the plow operators," said Supervisor Peter A. McMahon said. "Let's set the hearing for Oct. 2 and listen to what they say."