By David Hotle, The JOURNAL
While the Washington City Council approved a program aimed at mandating sidewalk repairs in front of residences in town, Mayor Jaron Rosien stressed that the city would work with property owners to help implement the required improvements.
During discussion, Washington City Administrator Brent Hinson said that since he arrived in Washington in 2011, the city had been sued twice due to tripping accidents from sidewalk disrepair. In September 2017, a sidewalk inspection program had been implemented to address sidewalk trip hazards. A similar program had been discontinued in Washington in 2002. Since the implementation, 172 properties have been identified as needing repair. The discussion Thursday was to issue notices to the property owners identified of the needed repairs. The council also discussed offering matching funds to the property owners to assist with the needed repairs.
?Any town that has not had a proactive sidewalk maintenance program ... it does show,? Hinson said.
In a memo to the council regarding the program, Hinson warned that sidewalk programs like this tend to attract much criticism from those receiving notices. it also said the alternative is to have poorly maintained sidewalks throughout town that would potentially pose a liability to the city.
?We believe the program is structured to give residents plenty of time to get work done, and by providing matching funds, we are easing the cost for repair which are solely their responsibility under the law,? the memo said.
Hinson said the first area examined was roughly Ward 1 of the city. He said most of the sidewalks that needed to be replaced involved only about two panels. The city will offer a $500 match to property owners, except people with corner lots, who are eligible for a $750 grant.
The program is scheduled to continue during future years until there are no more sidewalk safety hazards, Hinson said.
Rosien said there is a concern that the additional expense could be a burden for some property owners, but there are options available through the city.
?We are trying to give people as many options as possible,? Hinson said. ?The one thing that is not optional is that if there is a sidewalk hazard it needs to be fixed.?
He promised the city would do its best to work with everybody and make the project achievable. He said the city would give a fair amount of time and allowed the property owner to hire their own contractor. he also said there is a special assessment option to help pay for the project.
Council member Steve Gault commented that corner property owners were ?getting the short end of the stick.? He said corner owners had double the amount of sidewalk. Hinson said that only three properties were maxing out from the grants. He said he would examine the grant further to see if the program could offer more.