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Power chair users allege poor plowing



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April Blais, along with several other chair-bound residents of Quinebaug Plaza, have voiced concerns over sidewalk snow removal and how it affects them. Adam T. Silva. (click for larger version)
January 05, 2011
SOUTHBRIDGE — Residents of Quinebaug Plaza say they are having a hard time getting around in their power chairs during the winter months.

Of the 315 tenants at Quinebaug Plaza, 11 require motorized chairs or scooters to get around. Many of the residents claim the sidewalks aren't being cleared wide enough for them to safely maneuver around.

"For a week after the snowstorm, I just wouldn't go outside," said plaza resident April Blais, who has required a chair since 1995. "Yesterday [Monday, Jan. 3] was the first day that I went outside. I just don't want to get stuck anywhere. Things are better now that the snow is mostly gone. I just wish someone would put more sand on the ground so I could get better traction."

According to Elaine Ellsworth, a Quinebaug Plaza resident and a member of the town's Housing Authority, there is a bylaw in town requiring property owners within 24 hours of a snowstorm must clean the sidewalks in front of their property. The Supreme Judicial Court recently upheld such bylaws, making it easier for people injured in falls on improperly cleared sidewalks to sue.

"This isn't an attack on anyone or any group in town," said Ellsworth. "We just want to raise awareness of what's going on. We have other residents here that need walkers to get around and are afraid to walk around after a storm. This is often their only means of exercise."

Ellsworth, along with residents Bill Marritt, April Blais and Jean-Paul Marchesseault, say that many sidewalks are being cleared to only a shovel's width, which is not nearly wide enough for those in power chairs and scooters.

For more on this story, please see tomorrow's Southbridge Evening News.

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