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Amherst considers a sidewalk clearing tax

   Amherst is starting up a pilot program to see how much it would cost the town to assume responsibility for clearing residents' sidewalks along the busiest major roadways in Amherst.

   The program might ultimately lead to the creation of sidewalk districts in Amherst, which would essentially result in homeowners being charged a fee or tax in exchange for the town assuming all sidewalk clearing responsibilities for homes that front some of the town's major corridors.

   Robert and June Collins, are all for it. Both of them are in their early 80s and have lived along Harlem Road for 60 years, agree. Even though Robert Collins has a snowblower and tries to keep his and his neighbors' sidewalks clear, when the plows drop big chunks of ice in his path, not even a snowblower can move it.

   "They say you've got to clear your sidewalk," said June Collins, "but it's just about impossible."

   Some question the wisdom of sidewalk districts, saying it's adding another level of liability and potential expense to the town, and could create another tax burden for residents who don't want it. Others say the town has to do something to keep pedestrians from walking in the streets and getting hurt or killed.

   --- Sandra Tan

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