Several residents on Eastwood Avenue won’t have to pay for the repair of their sidewalks, thanks to a successful appeal during the city of Delaware’s Public Works/Public Utilities Committee meeting on Jan. 5.
The owners had received a letter from the city that said their sidewalks had deficiencies, such as breaks or cracks, deterioration, excess space between squares, tripping hazards and tree root damage. As part of Delaware’s “Safe Walks Program,” a city employee walked all of the sidewalks in the neighborhood, and identified problem sections. They marked the sections that need repairs with either a blue dot or a white dot. The blue dots meant the square was damaged by street trees, and will be repaired by the city at no cost to the owner.
However, six properties on Eastwood received a white dot, meaning the repair was the responsibility of the property owner, and they had until May 31 to make the repair. If the repairs were not made, a contractor would have made the repair at the owner’s expense.
The owners are allowed to appeal the decision, which is what the Eastwood residents did.
“The storm sewer wasn’t working properly,” Karl Raus told the committee. “That contributed to the crumbling. We feel the city ought to pay for the sidewalks.”
The city did fix the storm sewer in 2014, but prior to that, Raus said there was so much flooding that the sidewalks have floated on top of the water.
He showed pictures of a flood to the committee.
“It’s a sidewalk to nowhere,” Raus added. The sidewalks aren’t completely connected to Pennsylvania Avenue and Troy Road.
The other written appeals repeated what Raus said.
“Each passing year I have watched the water cover my sidewalk each time it rains,” wrote Thomas Hampton. “If anyone actually used my sidewalk, the uproar would have been heard at City Hall long ago.”
Hampton said this has happened ever since he has lived on Eastwood, over a 38-year period.
“This is due to inadequate drainage, and they want me to pay for their negligence,” Hampton said.
“I don’t feel like I should have to do this myself,” said Mildred Cook. “I don’t have much money.”
City staff members told the committee they considered the flooding to be an act of God, and the owners should make the repairs. They said they only apply the city’s code, and didn’t have the ability to provide exemptions.
“That’s why we have an appeals process,” said committee member Lisa Keller, who thanked the staff for doing its job. The committee then unanimously granted the exemptions for the Eastwood Avenue residents.
The three-member committee consists of Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle, Chair Kent Shafer and Vice Chair Keller. All are members of City Council.
The Safe Walks Program began in 2007. To date, all of the sidewalks in the northern, southern and eastern portions of the city have been inspected. The sidewalks in the western portion of the city began to be inspected in 2015, with western portions above West William Street/Marysville Road to be inspected in 2016, and portions below the road to the railroad track to be inspected in 2017. After the first go-round, the process begins all over again.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.