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Syracuse Snow Plow Operators Face Stiffer Fines for Unlicensed Operation Under Updated Ordinance

Syracuse Common Councilors Monday agreed to beef up an ordinance that regulates snow plow operators with hopes of increasing accountability.  A license will still cost $250, but the cost drops to only $50 per additional truck in the same fleet.  Fines for unlicensed operation, however, will jump from $150 to $350.  Director of Operations Corey Driscoll Dunham says snow plows are just like other private contractors in the city and need to know the rules.

"We do have issues where private contractors dump snow in the street, the sidewalk, or on hydrants.  This is an opportunity to educate them, and to compensate the city for the time spent dealiing with snow plow license operators."

Councilor Joe Carni was the lone no-vote on the updated ordinance. 

"If there is an issue of dumping in the median, someone's property, or the road, it's largely complaint driven by the neighbors and it's addressed.  It doesn't matter if they're licensed or not with the city."

Carni says he's already heard from residents who’ve been told by their plow contractor that they’ll pass along the cost to customers.  He says this poses a true dilemma for those who can’t afford it and who also can’t clear their own driveways.  Carni's other concern is how the ordinance will be enforced.  Right now it’s the police department, and he does not think it’s working.

"I can't get officers to respond immediately sometimes to a break-in in a home or a car, and I'm sure during the winter, they won't be able to follow plow drivers to make sure they have these licenses.  If this is about trying to get compliance, maybe we needed to go a different route with it."

Driscoll Dunham says police are not the only ones on the lookout.  She says city plows might also witness violations.

"The intent is to idenfity whether or not they have a license.  If they do, what's the decal number so we have this person's contact information.  If they don't, we see it as an opportunity to educate the person that you were witnessed violating city ordinance, do you know you're supposed to get a license."

Syracuse is not the only city to require snow plow licenses.  Buffalo, Tonawanda, Yonkers, as well as Grand Rapids, Michigan are other examples.   Driscoll Dunham says it’s part of the city’s comprehensive approach to managing the snow. 

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at