CLINTON — The city’s sidewalk ordinance, which places the responsibility of fixing sidewalks on the abutting owner, is similar to those across the state. However, the city now is leaning toward footing the bill.
At a later date, the Clinton City Council will address how to manage derelict sidewalks and the role of city funds. At least 41 of the 174 miles — 24 percent — of sidewalks are not up to city code. To update the network would cost an estimated $8 million.
The fixes could be done in two tiers, addressing the most hazardous areas first — which is an estimated 5 miles for $2 million — and then moving on toward a 30-year goal for total rehabilitation. The city’s Engineering Department, through a field study, determined the integrity of sidewalks by assessing cracking, spalling, heaving and cross slope. A majority of the needed maintenance does not pose an immediate threat to public safety. A recommended plan would be to repair the worst sidewalks first for an approximate $500,000 over the next two fiscal years.
“Our ordinance just does not work,” Clinton City Engineer Jason Craft said. “Our ordinance simply states that everyone has to pay for their own sidewalks. It’s very harsh and comes across as just an extra tax from the city, but it’s not unlike any other city across the state.”
However, the people of Clinton aren’t likely able to afford the full or even half of the price to fix their abutting sidewalk. Craft suggested putting a $1,000 cap on the homeowner portion of the repairs, which could be put on a property tax bill over a 10-year time period.
Mayor Mark Vulich would have a hard time signing off on such a program. He’d like to see the sidewalks brought to standard by the city, and then down the line readdressed by a later council to decide how to proceed with financing sidewalk maintenance.
“The property owners of this town pay too much in property tax as it is, they can’t afford another $100 a year to fix sidewalks,” he said.
Craft recommended moving forward with tier one, repairing the 5 miles of “the most worthy areas of repair in the city” and incrementally working on the remaining sidewalks. He is looking for efficiencies to capitalize on to better the citywide project.
“We think it best for the city to take the lead and fix those over the next two years, otherwise it’s not going to change and there are more sidewalks that fall into that category,” he said. “We think there is a second tier (36 miles) that could be easily constructed as part of the road project.