Early this year, before the serious snow got here, a new law went into effect requiring Alexandrians to clear sidewalks in front of their properties within eight hours after the flakes stopped falling.
Then came the Blizzard of '83, followed by brisk enforcement of the new ordinance: More than 200 residents were told they would be cited for failing to clear their walks, which were lying beneath almost 2 feet of snow. Conviction can mean a fine of up to $500 and up to six months in jail. Many were angry.
Last night, members of the Alexandria City Council had numerous second thoughts about the law they had enacted, well-meant though it was.
"I can't impose a legal duty on citizens that we are not prepared to impose on ourselves to clear the streets," council member Carlyle C. Ring Jr. (R) said. "I, for one, would like to reconsider."
Council member Patricia S. Ticer (D) said she had no idea when the council voted unanimously to pass the ordinance that the penalty was so "extreme."
The council instructed City Manager Douglas Harman to review the sidewalk-clearing law and to recommend "reasonable" modifications at a later meeting.
Dayton Cook, director of transportation and environmental services, reported that no one had actually been issued a citation for having a snow-covered walk.
In other snow-related matters, the council unanimously agreed to grant all of the approximately 1,700 city workers administrative leave for the day city offices were closed by the Feb. 11 storm.
All city employes who worked, mostly health, safety personnel and road crews, will receive compensatory time off, city personnel director Robert Burnett said.
Richard Josephson, president of the Alexandria Professional Employes organization, said he was pleased with the council's decision.
In other action, the council voted unanimously to move against the First Assembly of God Church, 700 W. Braddock Rd., which was going into its third day of violating city zoning laws requiring it to install a fence and shrubbery around its school. City officials said privately yesterday that the council will probably seek a temporary restraining court order to halt the school's operation.
Church Administrator Gilbert Colon Sr. said after the meeting, "We will continue to teach our children in the church."