City to ask residents for help with sidewalk fix

Apr 23, 2013 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Worn out sidewalks are throwing a wrench in a proposed plan to fix curbs and gutters in Riverton, and the plan could bring big bills for property owners.

The Fix Our Roads Citizen Committee's recommendation was to use revenue from the optional 1 percent sales tax to rebuild curbs and gutters first in Riverton on 83 sections of roadways several blocks long.

Public services director Bill Urbigkit told the city council at its April 9 meeting that those concrete pieces are often connected to sidewalks, so replacing a curb would destroy the sidewalk.

He said later that the pieces are usually detached in the area between First Street and Federal Boulevard and Monroe Avenue to Pershing Street, but attached outside of that square.

City code says property owners are responsible for paying to build sidewalks and to repair or replace them.

Urbigkit outlined the plan. If a broken sidewalk were attached to a gutter being replaced, the property owner would have to pay for a new sidewalk.

The city would not tear out unconnected sidewalks during road work, nor would it charge property owners if it destroyed adequate sidewalks.

Work on curbs and gutters could bring a slew of orders to replace inadequate sidewalks after years of neglecting the issue, and the city is approaching the subject gingerly.

"That caused me some concern, because we're going to be sending out a lot of letters saying they'll have to (replace their sidewalk)," Urbigkit said.

"If we go by and stick every homeowner with a $2,000 to $4,000 bill to fix their sidewalks, you'll get some real animosity built up," councilman Richard Gard said.

Urbigkit said in areas where the city has rebuilt roads and sidewalks are poor, property owners often offer to pay the city to replace their sidewalks too.

He also said he would not force a neighborhood to rebuild its sidewalks if a majority of landowners objects, but in that case the city would not be able to fix the road, either.

The city would also have public forums about the project before it would proceed, he said.

"The first thing I'll do is send out a flier to say, 'We're going to fix the curb and gutter if you'll fix the sidewalk,'" Urbigkit said. "It's going to radically improve their property values and make their lives better."

At the meeting, he explained that the city engineer determines when property owners must rebuild sidewalks. Riverton does not have a city engineer, Urbigkit said, so he fills that role.

That official can order a replacement when, "Safe and satisfactory walkways will be provided for children en route to or from school or when, because of existing conditions in an area of the city, the public safety, convenience and general welfare will be served by the construction, reconstruction or repair of such sidewalks."

Some members of FORCC thought the code was too broad.

"What the 1 percent committee suggests to you is that ... there be standards developed and codified, go into the city code, and say 'these items constitute a sidewalk that needs to be fixed,'" Urbigkit said.

The committee thought specific guidelines would help the city decide which sidewalks need replacement and which do not.

Urbigkit gave examples from a draft of standards compiled by his staff. One said the side to side slope of a sidewalk had to be less than 1 inch per foot and the edge of one section could not be more than 1 inch higher than the edge of the next.

Several council members remarked that many of the city's sidewalks are in bad shape and need fixing.

"There are places where the concrete is just gravel," councilman Lars Baker said.

Gard asked how the city has handled poor sidewalks.

Riverton has only dealt with them if property owners approach the city about the issue, Urbigkit said.

The city council will consider sidewalk standards at a later meeting.

"I think it would certainly be worth discussion," Mayor Ron Warpness said. "Having just received (the draft standards) and not having been able to read through it, I would hate to say, 'Yes, move forward.'"

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