City contemplates bad sidewalks
Friday, January 25, 2013
WENATCHEE — City sidewalks are crumbling underfoot, and city leaders want to fix the problem.
Sidewalks in many places are cracked and disintegrating, creating a hazard for pedestrians as well as an eyesore.
At their annual retreat last week, City Council members pondered how best to encourage home and business owners to repair or replace the sidewalks along their property lines.
You heard that right. Fixing sidewalks along city streets is the public’s responsibility, not the city’s.
City crews will tear out old or damaged sidewalks at a property owner’s request if the owner pays to put in a new one.
Fewer than a dozen property owners a year take advantage of that offer.
But sidewalks are falling apart far quicker than they are being repaired, Mayor Frank Kuntz said.
In the past, the city has handed out neighborhood improvement grants for various projects, including sidewalk repairs. Kuntz suggested at last week’s retreat that the city put money into fund for such a purpose.
Steve King, the city’s interim community development director, said some cities, like Tacoma, create a local improvement district that taxes residents in a certain area to pay for sidewalk projects.
King said Wenatchee tried to do that on Castlerock Street in recent years “but people don’t want a $5,000 bill.”
The city doesn’t do the work, he told council members, because it would be too expensive. The city would have to go through a competitive bidding process to hire a contractor and pay prevailing wages.
“It’s not a prevailing wage kind of project,” he said. “People can get it done quite a bit cheaper than we could.”
He said it can cost people $50 to $100 a foot to replace sidewalk, he said, adding that the city spends roughly $150 a foot to build sidewalk.
It’s been several years since the city last did a survey of sidewalks.
The last time the council addressed the issue of failing sidewalks was in 2005. But no clear plan came out of it. It was discussed at last week’s retreat at the request of a City Council member.
“It’s one of those things that needs to be addressed but it costs a lot of money to do it,” King said.
The city adopted codes in 1966 that put the onus on property owners to maintain sidewalks at all times in a safe condition free of any obstructions or defects. The property owner is liable for any injuries or damage caused by a defective sidewalk. If the city orders a property owner to repair a dangerous sidewalk and they don’t comply, the city will fix the sidewalk, send the bill to the property owner and could eventually place a lien on the property to recover the costs.
Kuntz said the city will look at how other cities are getting sidewalk work done to find creative ideas. But the city does not yet have a timeline or a plan for doing it.
“We’ll try to figure out how to make it work,” Kuntz said. He added that, “Sidewalks are one of many infrastructure needs the city is dealing with. But it’s one of those things you just can’t ignore.”
Michelle McNiel: 664-7152
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