Last week, Sarah and I were in Florida visiting family and friends. Before we left on 18 Feb 05, we checked the long-range forecast to see if snow was on the horizon. Since the forecast didn’t show any sign of precipitation, we didn’t bother to make any arrangements to have our sidewalks shoveled while we were gone.

Madison has a general ordinance requiring homeowners to shovel their “public sidewalks” no later than noon the day after snow stops falling. The same ordinance also requires residents to either remove or sand/salt/ice-melt any ice on the sidewalk. If one fails to shovel one’s sidewalk, a concerned citizen (for lack of another word) can call the city’s Building Inspection department to complain. At that point, a Building Inspector is dispatched to view the offending walk. If the Building Inspector feels that the sidewalk has not been shoveled or the ice has not been sanded/salted/melted, he can then fine the homeowner and leave a notice on their door.

The fine levied by the building inspector is $102.

The notice left on the door tells the homeowner that if they fail to remove the snow by the next day, city crews will be dispatched to shovel the snow and the homeowner will be billed for the cost of the time spent shoveling plus a $30 administrative fee.

There we are on scenic Lower Matecumbe Key, sitting around in shorts and short sleeves, eating tree ripened grapefruit, wearing sunscreen, and reading the Miami Herald. And, on that newspaper’s weather page, we see that Madison got several inches of snow a few days earlier! All we could do is hope that it melted the next day before the Shovel Police were called.

When we got home yesterday, we found a wonderful pink notice on our door from the friendly folks in the Building Inspection department. One of our neighbors (again for lack of a proper word) reported the fact that we didn’t shovel our sidewalks after one of the snow storms.

You can imagine our delight at seeing that.

So, we know that we’re facing a $102 fine, a $30 administrative fee, and some unknown quantity of city employee time billed at some unknown hourly rate.


Today, a notice came from the court system, announcing that we had an (optional) court appearance scheduled for 08:30 on 26 Apr 05 to defend our non-shoveling actions.

Even more delightful.

Even though I have no possible winning defense (other than perhaps claiming that it did not actually snow), I’m tempted to show up in court anyway. If nothing else, it would force the city to win by some other means than a default judgement.