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DeWitt water tower

DEWITT — DeWitt residents on the northeast side of town soon may need to pay for sidewalk repairs.

Precision Concrete, a contractor hired by the city, has examined the sidewalks in that part of town and marked areas that do not comply with the city’s recently amended sidewalk ordinance. The areas of concern are primarily rises and falls from one sidewalk section to another, which DeWitt City Administrator Steve Lindner called “tripping hazards.”

The sidewalk ordinance was edited after city officials discovered it was not in lockstep with the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal blueprint used across the U.S. to ensure public accessibility.

The ADA – and now, the city’s ordinance – says sidewalk sections cannot have more than a 1/4-inch difference in height. Precision Concrete recently marked sidewalk sections on the northeast side of DeWitt that violate that rule.

City officials broke the focus areas into four quadrants, meaning next year, Precision Concrete will survey another section of town.

“We will rotate, and it will be an annual program,” Lindner said.

Over time, Lindner explained, federal laws like the ADA are amended, and those changes trickle down to the city level.

“I do not know when we became out of compliance,” he said. Lindner said he attended workshops at which accessibility issues were addressed. It was there city officials learned of the city’s ADA violation.

This isn’t the first time the city has analyzed sidewalks and marked them for repair, but the new regulations are more stringent, Lindner said. In the past, repair efforts have been focused on slopes and ramps.

Homeowners with markings on their sidewalk are responsible to pay for the repairs, Lindner said. The majority of the fixes can be done by grinding the sidewalk surface, a repair Lindner said is the “most cost effective and less intrusive.”

Any contractor can be hired to complete the work, but Lindner urged residents to ensure the repair fits within the new city code.

“We will press (homeowners) to go with Precision Concrete for a couple reasons,” Lindner said. “Likely, they will be the most cost effective and it will match the ADA compliance. We don’t want someone else to come in and do a grinding that is still not in compliance.”

In some cases, where major displacements have occurred, or sections are broken up, entire portions of the sidewalk may need to be replaced. Lindner said the city will soon contact every homeowner whose sidewalks need repairs and discuss the options.

The city will not help pay for the repairs, Lindner said.

“We have had a sidewalk loan program and it (was) never used,” he said. “(Currently) it is not funded, and it would take additional action to work through (funding it).

“The sidewalk is the homeowner’s responsibility,” Lindner explained. “We have worked with homeowners on finding specific solutions for certain issues or workarounds, but most of (the cost) will fall on the homeowner. Those (issues) are inherent with some lots. If there’s a 50-year-old tree (lifting up the sidewalk), you were aware of that when you bought the lot. That’s not to say we haven’t worked with people to work around to allow a sidewalk to go around a tree to give it some space or distance.”

Nick Joos is the DeWitt Observer’s news editor.

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