Tallinn City Government to tighten up snow removal practices

A scene from Valgevase Street in the Kalamaja district of Tallinn in early February this year, gives an idea of the type of obstacles uncleared snow and ice can bring.
A scene from Valgevase Street in the Kalamaja district of Tallinn in early February this year, gives an idea of the type of obstacles uncleared snow and ice can bring. Source: Karin Koppel/ERR

Tallinn City Government is to tighten up its regulations on snow clearing and removal for this winter.

The move comes after issues with snow clearance last winter, and affects private owners of buildings, who are quite literally responsible for keeping their side of the street clean, either by doing it themselves or paying Tallinn City Government to do so.

The main concerns regard smaller side streets, according to Deputy Mayor Kalle Klandorf (Centre).

"Areas with a high volume of people such as those surrounding kindergartens will see more rapid cleanups, rather than waiting five hours after a snowstorm has ended and then cleaning up – this is hopelessly late," Klandorf said at a press conference, ERR's online news in Estonian reports.

Klandorf added that some private owners and residents' associations have so far simply ignored their snow removal obligations.

"We have now given the [Tallinn City municipal police] Mupo more powers, including on-the-spot fines," the deputy mayor added.

At the same time, variations in snowfall and ice formation across the city, as well as population densities and throughflow of pedestrians, drivers etc., is also a factor, with the city ready to step in where needed.

"Good news for property owners is that they can pay for cleaning services to the city and thus not have to worry about doing it themselves; simply lighten their wallet. At the same time, some people might still want to clean themselves but can't handle it," Klandorf continued, noting that attempts are being made to reach agreements with private owners, but the current legislation makes this quite difficult, including in cases where residents are not equally pulling their weight in such work.

"Under current Estonian law, it is quite difficult to reach consensus on how a private owner can take part in cleaning their street when someone else is already doing it. The law says we have to make a separate contract with each owner and get it this notarized - you get the idea about red tape," Klandorf added.

Further measures announced by the deputy mayor included monitoring snow removal companies more closely, including equipment checks, staggering of cleaning shifts across different city districts to minimize disruption or avoiding duplication by different companies etc.

The new snow removal strategy will need approval by the city government, along with its budget for 2020 (the budget strategy was announced the week before last).

The central city government has also passed on its edicts to Tallinn's districts.

Snow and ice removal does not simply involve cleaning pavements and walkways. Residents are also responsible for keeping roofs, gutters etc. free from large volumes of snow or ice – which could prove (and have in the past proven) fatal when falling on a passerby – as well as icicles.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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