Sandi Torkildson is not averse to using a shovel. The owner of A Room of One's Own bookstore is in her 60s, but when the snow falls, she'll clear a path for her customers.
But the thing is, it isn't Torkildson's job. In the downtown area, workers from the city's Parks Division are responsible for clearing sidewalks. And after the snowstorm that hit the city the weekend of Dec. 11, the city was flooded with complaints over how it cleared - or rather, didn't clear - sidewalks the following week.
The city's lackadaisical effort was especially galling because it came right at the heart of the holiday shopping season. Torkildson was among those who eventually took matters into their own hands. "I got my sidewalk cleared," she says. "I got it so it was walkable. It felt to me like [city workers] shrugged and gave up."
Parks spokeswoman Laura Whitmore blames a shortage of staff. Many workers were on vacation, and others didn't respond to the voluntary call for overtime, she says.
Parks Superintendent Kevin Briski reviewed the complaints and the division's snow removal procedures, but no adjustments are planned. "The protocol actually works pretty well," says Whitmore.
Torkildson agrees the city usually does a good job but thinks breakdowns like this should not occur. "It's not rocket science," she says. "People have been removing snow in Wisconsin for hundreds of years."