Mayor: some sidewalks pose safety threat
MIDWAY - The city council Monday night tasked City Attorney Phil Moloney with drafting a short-term fix to the city's laws on sidewalks. The discussion took up most of a 57-minute meeting. Mayor Grayson Vandegrift began by noting he'd recently learned that city ordinances did not, as he'd previously thought, allow the city to put a lien on a property if its owner didn't fix a sidewalk in disrepair after being ordered to do so. "Yes, the city has a right to go and fix it, so that's good, that's already in our language. What it doesn't have is . it doesn't say anything about liens or whatnot. It just has this penalty ." Vandegrift said, referring to a $10-per-day charge for property owners after missing a deadline to fix the broken sidewalk. "In my opinion, let's put a provision in there that says, 'The city may construct sidewalks, but we can put a lien on the property if the (work) isn't done by a certain date,'" Vandegrift said. "I do think also we should consider cost-sharing, as we have in the past, up to a certain point, and I also propose that we strike that $10-a-day penalty ." Moloney suggested the council do away with the $5 permit fee for people prepared to fix their sidewalks. Vandegrift said he agreed. Later, council member Dan Roller said he didn't care whether permit fees were charged, but believed permits are needed before the work began. Council member Sara Hicks noted that in some cases, tree roots were the cause of broken sidewalks, and that some of those trees were planted by the city. One solution, she said, was to set up a schedule to remove trees with roots causing such problems. Roller said new or repaired sidewalks could curve around the root area, and that otherwise, only "pint-size" trees could be planted, to which Hicks said such trees could be beautiful. Roller said he was concerned that presently, about 85 percent of the trees near sidewalks were maples, and that such a high percentage made them more susceptible to disease. Hicks suggested a new ordinance include language allowing cost-sharing for people who couldn't afford to pay the entire cost of repairing their sidewalks. Vandegrift agreed. Council member Libby Warfield said she wasn't sure if cost-sharing would be fair - that many property owners don't have sidewalks or have sidewalks that don't need work, and that the city's two subdivisions don't have sidewalks. Roller noted that the city doesn't require sidewalks. Later, he said the city could give people a credit on their property tax bills to help pay for sidewalk repairs. Warfield and council member Steven Craig indicated their approval. Council member Bruce Southworth said the $27,000 annual appropriation for sidewalk repairs discussed in previous meetings should be spent on areas where sidewalks don't meet the road. Moloney said grants could provide a multiplier effect. "There are places where the sidewalk just ends in the middle of the yard," Southworth said. Vandegrift said the city should first address safety problems like those on a stretch of Winter Street just south of Midway City Hall. "These sidewalks right here are a death trap, almost. I think those are more dangerous than ones that end right now ." Vandegrift said. The council debated other sidewalk issues, including the question of whether the city or property owners "owned" the sidewalks. Craig asked whether the city would be responsible for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act if it took over ownership of the sidewalks. Moloney said he believed so. The discussion ended with Vandegrift getting the council's go-ahead for Moloney to draft an ordinance to address the immediate problems, though it was unclear what the draft would encompass. Garbage rates hiked The council voted unanimously to exercise an option for a two-year renewal with Rumpke Waste & Recycling Services that will raise garbage and recycling pick-up rates by about nine percent. The new rates, $12.91 (up from $11.95) for once-a-week residential pick-up and $27.54 (up from $25.50) for twice-weekly business pick-up, go into effect July 1. Before the vote, Vandegrift said the council could choose to re-bid the present four-year-deal with the Mt. Sterling-based company, but members indicated general satisfaction with the company's work.