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NORMAL - Brian Simpson likes to scoop snow.

As a matter of fact, when he's finished clearing the sidewalks in front of his downtown business, Babbitt's Books, he often helps his neighbors.

"The way I always look at it, scooped snow helps everybody down here," he said.

So a new ordinance recently adopted by the City Council requiring all downtown business or property owners to keep their sidewalks clear of ice and snow is fine by Simpson. Fines for not following the law range from $25 to $200.

"I think it's a totally good thing in many ways," he said.

Andy Streenz of Bill's Key and Lock Shop agrees it's another key to getting shoppers downtown.

"We always scoop and salt," he said. "We need to make it an atmosphere people want to come to. We feel it shouldn't be necessary to have it be a law; people should do it anyway."

But Streenz knows that doesn't happen. In the past, his business neighbors haven't scooped so pedestrians track that snow on his cleared sidewalks.

While some council members had concerns about adopting the ordinance, a majority agreed to give it a one-year trial.

"I think we should give this a chance through a winter to see how it works," said Councilwoman Sonja Reece. "People may take shoveling more seriously and it will work."

Councilman Adam Nielsen agreed.

"If this is what (business owners) want to try, I say we give it a shot and see what happens," he said. "We can come back and readdress it if there's a problem."

The town sent the proposed ordinance to all property owners and businesses in the central business district for their input.

Downtown Normal Business Association President Mary Strack said business owners in attendance at a recent association meeting supported the ordinance.

"I would think any service-oriented business person would want to shovel their walks," Strack said.

But Councilman Jeff Fritzen questioned the practicality of the ordinance.

He noted the town owns several properties - Normal Public Library, the Normal Theater and the Children's Discovery Museum - and will own the proposed transportation center and conference center.

"With that much municipal frontage - as compact a downtown is - the town should be responsible for the whole thing either through a private contractor or do with our own equipment," Fritzen said.

The new law requires sidewalks be cleared within four business hours after the snowfall, sleet or freezing rain or by 10 a.m. - the beginning of business hours - the next business day. The rules do not apply on Sundays or national or state holidays. If the sidewalks are covered with ice that can't be removed, an abrasive, such as sand, has to be used.

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