Icy winter won’t slip easily from memory

Every day Jim Freihage takes a shovel to the ice and snow that has formed a stubborn, pockmarked sheet on the city street outside his home.

Despite the effort, the Grand Junction man admittedly has a long way to go to make the roadway smooth for cars and the sidewalk safe for pedestrians.

“I’ve seen people almost hit kids crossing the street,” Freihage said of motorists sliding on the ice on Hall Avenue at the intersection with 13th Street. “I’m trying to get it cleaned up.”

Across the Grand Valley, pedestrians are slipping, sliding and falling on streets, sidewalks and parking lots that are doubling as ice rinks.

The buildup of ice is more than an annoyance for local residents accustomed to mild winters, and it has been a boon to automobile repair shops. It’s a public safety hazard and potential legal liability to local governments, businesses and private property owners who are struggling to clear it.

“It’s a safety concern. Keeping our shoppers safe is definitely our No. 1 priority,” said Jammie McCloud, marketing manager for Mesa Mall, which owns the largest uncovered parking area in the valley.

Tuesday’s high temperature for Grand Junction topped out at just 27 degrees, marking the 20th day in a row the mercury hasn’t exceeded the freezing mark. It hasn’t climbed above 40 degrees since Dec. 1.

That kind of deep freeze has allowed snow and ice to stick around. What limited melting occurs during the day turns into glossy sheets of ice overnight.

Grand Junction Solid Waste and Streets Manager Darren Starr said city crews have been working off and on to clear snow and ice since a Dec. 7-8 storm dumped nearly nine inches of snow on the city. He said workers have to use motor graders and skid steers to chip away at the ice and haul it away.

Starr said the city can’t get to every ice-covered area, so crews are focusing on handicap-accessible spots, hospitals, nursing homes, bus stops and other locations that receive high foot traffic.

He said the city has tried to use a granular ice-melt product, but it’s effective only down to 19 degrees. But even if it’s able to eat away at the ice, single-digit lows refreeze any snow or ice melt.

“It’s a vicious circle, so you’re not making any headway,” he said.

McCloud said the mall had to rent four snowplows to add to its fleet of three to handle all the snow and ice of the last month. She said workers have been outside daily, spraying magnesium chloride on icy areas to break it down to slush so they can push it off to the edges of the parking lot.

Attorney Bill Kane is representing Loren Cross, a Grand Junction man considering pursuing a lawsuit against Albertsons on 12th Street after he fell and broke his leg in the parking lot of the grocery store on Dec. 12.

Kane said Cross told him he parked his car on a patch of ice and he couldn’t get his car off it, and after going inside the store he fell on the patch of ice when he returned to his car. Kane said Cross has been recovering in a rehabilitation center since.

Damon Davis, a personal injury and employment attorney with Grand Junction law firm Killian and Davis, said state law divides liability into different categories, with businesses generally being the most liable for the safety of people who come onto their property.

Using the example of someone falling on the ice and suffering an injury, he said homeowners can be held liable in that instance if they create a dangerous situation or know of a dangerous situation and fail to address it.

Using that same incident, he said businesses can be held liable if they fail to protect against a dangerous situation they knew or should have known about.

“A company should probably have most of their stuff cleaned up and should be looking for where there are hazards to customers,” Davis said. “There’s a little bit more responsibility on business owners to take care of their property than there is ordinary homeowners.”

Sentinel reporter Amy Hamilton contributed to this report.


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