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Public sidewalks

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by jonniesmooth, Dec 31, 2015.

  1. jonniesmooth

    jonniesmooth Senior Member
    Messages: 296

    I have an idea to expand my business. It would focus on the public sidewalks along several of our main streets. The ones that the general public uses most to get around town. These are residential areas, not storefront, downtown.

    I see many homeowners that don't shovel, even 2 days after a snow, or not at all. People who live on corners don't shovel through to the street.

    The city is supposed to notify them, then do the work and add the bill to their property tax, but that never happens.

    What I would offer would be a 4" trigger or 1/week service. Service to be provided within 24 hours of a 4" snow or 1/week if less then 4" total during the week.

    I have tractors with heated cabs and brooms/ blowers.

    My intent would be to do the whole block.

    Let's say there are 8 houses on a block. If I can get 5 of them to pay $20/ month that would be great. Really if they had 10 houses and they each paid $10, that would be great. Either way I get my $100.

    Here's my questions: Do I need to get permission to do the public sidewalk of the people that don't hire me?

    Do you see any liability for "causing an unsafe condition" type claim?
    I'm going to talk to our city building inspector, he's a friend of mine, for his input.

    I hesitated implementing this program this year, because I lost one of my subs, and I'm busy enough without, but who doesn't like more $$$?

    Thanks for your advice.

    Any other thoughts, let's hear 'em
  2. KildonanSnowRem

    KildonanSnowRem Member
    Messages: 92

    Following. I love new angles that I haven't thought of before.
  3. Brian Young

    Brian Young PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,394

    Generally the people who don't clean off the walks just don't care and don't worry about it. It's a 300.00 fine in our city but no one enforces it. I think if you can get the pricing to where people can't resist it and get enough to make it worth while then go for it. I think it's a great idea...if you get a bunch in a row and have the right equipment to do it quickly. As far as liability, probably just like doing any commercial account.
  4. Brian Young

    Brian Young PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,394

    Was going to add, we tried this a few years ago and it was hit and miss. We'd get 2 or 3 people who wanted it then 2 or 3 who didn't then a few who were loyal to their plow guys doing it, the most we ended up with was somewhere around 4 or 5 on a block and none were next to each other so it just wasn't worth it. Good thing though it only takes a couple hours to canvas a few neighborhoods to test the waters. Good luck.
  5. grandview

    grandview PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,609

    So then why would I pay you if the city does the work and don't bill?
  6. Freshwater

    Freshwater PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,207

    The city doesn't usually enforce the ticket or do the work either.

    Might be better to try to Contract through the city.
  7. derekslawncare

    derekslawncare PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,003

    If I were to try this, this would be the ONLY route I would even try it. Go to the city, say you hire me as a contractor to do the entire area/neighborhood at $xxxx per house. I get $xx of that and the city gets the other $xx. City pays me after each storm, then goes after homeowner to recover the full amount. Win for you, win for city. Have them go on the news a couple months before implementation to "warn" everyone then again a couple days before first storm. Then 48 hrs after storm, unload machine and go to town.

    Edit: I might add that this is also a city ordinance here in KC, however, the only time that the city threatens action is after a big storm where the snow is just too deep to walk through. The reasoning they cite for having it is that kids have to be able to walk to school or to the bus stop w/o having to do so by walking in the street in traffic. They ALWAYS go on the news ahead of time and forewarn everyone that they will be enforcing it. They enforce by issuing citations to anyone who hasn't cleared their walks within 48 hrs after storm. Of course, right after they have the rep from the city give their story, they follow it up with an interview with some 80 yr of woman, on a fixed income, who is disabled, and can't get out to do it, but can't afford to pay to have it done either.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2015
  8. 1olddogtwo

    1olddogtwo PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 12,174

    Yea, sure, get the government involved that would make everything work so smoothly.....

    Don't we have enough big brother? Now you want them to regulate and charge for snow removal?
  9. MajorDave

    MajorDave Senior Member
    Messages: 968

    In NYC or let's say "Greater NY" --- this is situation.

    -It is home owner or business owner responsibility to clear snow 2 hours after storm or ticketed. That NEVER happens (meaning the ticket).
    -There is NOWHERE, here, that any Gov't is responsible for clearing except Gov't buildings of course. So I am thinking that you may be wrong. Why would the City have to clear someone's walk? The resident is responsible (if I read that all correctly).
    -I have many blocks of houses in my neighborhood where the entire block has all connected houses, like townhouses, and has a back alley that divides the block in half where you get to your garage in the back. So everyone's garage faces the others, in the back. Everyone is responsible for that, but only maybe 70% do it as they do not use their back garage. I have tried to get everyone to chip in as little as $10, but NO ONE CAN GET TOGETHER! Out of 40 houses on the block (both sides) I would get 2 calls back!!! Then I talk to them and they tell me horror stories about trying to get people to pitch in to fix the alley pavement - let alone - snow.
    -So the point above is you will never get everyone to pitch in.
    -Then what if you just do it all? Some guy (like us) got a new tractor or blower, and you come along and do it free cause you have two people paying on each side, and you piss him off as you took all his fun! And he reports you!
    -Insurance = commercial account!
    *It's frustrating...I am in talks with the Community Board and will be doing an article for their magazine for next year and hopefully can garner some support as I really want to try it on a larger scale. I have one alley I do, with only 10 houses. For 3 years, I did the whole thing and got paid about $120 from 5 people on one end, but plowed all as once in a while they would pay. And truth be told, like you, I thought, just plow it - easier than looking what back door I was at in the middle of night. NOT THIS YEAR - gonna hard pack it as I have to make several loops through to plow, but will only do that half.
    ***As you can see, I've been thinking on this one for a long time! Sorry for rambling.
  10. MajorDave

    MajorDave Senior Member
    Messages: 968

    -And yes - PLEASE KEEP THE GOV't OUT! :realmad:
  11. derekslawncare

    derekslawncare PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,003

    I agree with both of you. The ONLY way the guberment knows how to do ANYTHING is the wrong way, however, as many have noted, most people don't care about clearing snow off a walk they don't use, so most don't care about the public walk even though it IS THEIR RESPONSIBILITY TO CLEAR IT. Thus, my suggestion was to get them to start enforcing a law that ALREADY EXISTS, and if they got a share of the fee, it would be in their interest to do it. Plus, my way, you get paid right away, you don't have to worry about a bunch of bounced checks a month later and all is good. It would be better for the contractor also, because you WOULD BE doing EVERY house, so no starting/stopping. Also, you are doing it on behalf of the city, so no need to get permission from every property owner because of easement. So much less work for the contractor, and more accounts, so higher pay. JMO
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2015
  12. jonniesmooth

    jonniesmooth Senior Member
    Messages: 296

    At $20/month for a 5 month contract, that's $100 for the season per house or 1/2 that if 2X the houses. I was going to get 50% up front, other half mid Feb.

    I plan to run the whole block no matter how many pay, but 5 @ $20 would be the minimum for the block to be added.
    I figured there would be extra sidewalks and driveways for some added on too, and plow ridges from the city plow in driveways for more $$$

    No one sees a problem with doing the walks of people who don't hire you? Insurance wise? Liability?

    The city code says the city will clear public walks if the owner doesn't, but it rarely happens. They bill it through the utility bill or property tax.

    I know they do enforce the mowing code. I have done the city mowing contract before. But they don't do a contract to do the sidewalks. I don't like the idea of involving the Gov. either. They always emailed the lawns that needed to be mowed at 3 p.m. on Thursday afternoon. So instead of working hard all week to get my lawns done and have an easy Fri. I was mowing foot high crap all day.

    Thanks for all the advice!
  13. derekslawncare

    derekslawncare PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,003

    I have a REAL problem doing ANY properties that aren't paying for several reasons. 1st, I don't work for free. My time is worth something to me and my equipment still needs fuel, maintenance, insurance and replacement whether it generates income or not, so it better be paying for itself. Secondly, if you go to all these people this year and give them the sales pitch and they say no thanks, go pound sand and then you service them anyway, then of course, they are going to say to themselves, I told him no, I'm not paying. Then they never get a bill. Guess what, neighbors talk to each other. So the one who said no will talk to the ones who said yes and guess what, next time or next year, the ones who said yes are going to say heck with it, he's going to do it whether I pay or not, so I'm not going to pay. Next thing you know, you're doing a whole block and not getting paid for any of it. How long you going to stay in business with that business model? You are just creating/encouraging bad customer expectations, IE- I want something for nothing, a syndrome already running rampant across this country.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2015
  14. jonniesmooth

    jonniesmooth Senior Member
    Messages: 296

    I said...

    I said it in the OP and again in the one you quoted The minimum would be $100/month for the block to get service. I don't care if it's 5 houses paying $20 each, or 10 houses paying $10 each.

    My equipment is all paid for, and I don't intend to work for free. For me to make one pass down the whole block isn't 10 minutes X 4 times/ month= 40 min, even with a load/unload time of 10 min, that's an hour a month for $100. How is that not good money?

    I would want the neighbors to talk to each other and do it as a group.

    I realize I am bordering on Bernie Sanders vision of America, and I don't like that.
  15. leolkfrm

    leolkfrm PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,978

    and when those that pay find out your doing the ones that dont?...
  16. 32vld

    32vld Senior Member
    from LI, NY
    Messages: 622

    They are going to be pissed because they will see it as the OP was making them pay for their neighbors.
  17. Randall Ave

    Randall Ave PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,586

    If the city was to do this, legally it would have to go out to bid.
  18. jonniesmooth

    jonniesmooth Senior Member
    Messages: 296

    It's not a secret

    They are going to know it from the beginning. They are only paying for the service to their sidewalk. The price goes down if more people join.

    It is in effect, socialized snow removal.

    I'm trying to do something good for the community and make a buck while doing it.

    It would take me the same amount of time to drive down the block, if the broom is running the whole time, or if I shut it off for the people who didn't pay.
  19. MajorDave

    MajorDave Senior Member
    Messages: 968

    It simple comes down to you getting out there and hustling. You want them all to agree. Plain and simple.