Council passes sidewalk ordinance
MIDWAY - The city council spent much of a 70-minute meeting Monday night debating new sidewalk rules, then tabled a resolution for a cost-sharing program for property owners with bad sidewalks. Before setting aside the resolution, the council voted 5 to 0 (council member Kaye Nita Gallagher was absent) in favor of an ordinance reforming the city's sidewalk laws, which Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said hadn't been enforced since they were written in 1990. Before the debate, Shirley Wilson said she lived in a house on West Main Street that has belonged to her family for more than a century. Wilson said family members told her that between 50 and 75 years ago, the city planted trees near the street. "Over time as these trees have grown, the root system has buckled some sidewalk. It's always been a nebulous thing as to whose responsibility this was ." Wilson said. She asked about the cost-sharing resolution on the agenda that would set aside $27,000 in fiscal 2017 for a 50-50 match between homeowners and the city. "Can I be first to sign up? I mean, how do you get in line for this money?" Wilson asked. Wilson asked if city leaders had chosen a contractor for the work and provided an estimate. Vandegrift said the city would set up a grading system for sidewalk conditions, then provide a list of approved contractors and specifications to do the work. "There are a lot of people who are really upset about the condition of sidewalks around town. And one lady in particular has a little baby and she said, 'My baby's getting to where she's starting to walk and run around,' and she lives on a very busy street where the sidewalk's in very bad condition, and she says, 'What can the city do about this because the property owners simply won't fix it?'" Vandegrift said. The first measure to be brought up was the second reading of the sidewalk ordinance, some of the features of which include: . Property owners must get a permit before their sidewalk repair begins; . Inspection fees are $20 for 50 linear feet with $5 for each additional 50 feet; . Permits expire if work doesn't begin within 30 days or isn't completed within 90 days; . The present penalty of $10-per-day for non-compliance is changed to $25 to $250 for each violation, which includes failing to use a permit or city-approved contractor. The debate about the ordinance leaped ahead to the cost-sharing resolution. Council member Dan Roller suggested that persons owning buildings on the city's blighted property list not be eligible for the sidewalk repair matching funds. Council members Bruce Southworth and Steven Craig agreed. Council member Libby Warfield had several concerns about the matching fund program. She noted that some residents, including those on fixed incomes, had already spent their own money to repair damaged sidewalks on their property. "That's not going to sit well with them. The world's not fair, life's not fair, and I'm not saying we judge everything on the fairness value, but that's this working document, if we work it through on a daily basis, that's the way I see it," Warfield said. City Attorney Phil Moloney said the council should remember that the goal of improving the city's sidewalks is to protect the safety and welfare of residents. Warfield wondered why the 1990 ordinance had never been enforced. Southworth asked if she believed the present $10 per day fine was fair. Vandegrift said, "If somebody can't afford to fix a sidewalk that's in disrepair, how they can afford $300 a month fine? . They can't." Council member Sara Hicks said she thought it would cost less for the city to fix broken sidewalks than to face liability issues if someone was injured on them. Warfield asked what the city would do if too many people signed up for the cost-sharing program. Moloney said sign-up would end Oct. 31, and take place after the city graded the sidewalks to help ensure the worst were fixed first. After several more minutes of debate, the ordinance was passed and the resolution tabled. Vandegrift asked council members to forward their suggestions to Moloney, who'd draft a new resolution and send that to the sidewalks committee, which is chaired by Southworth. Chamber funding Woodford Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Don Vizi gave the council a letter and brief rundown of some of his group's activities, then asked the council to fund the chamber to the tune of $1,500, the amount it appropriated last year. Hicks asked several questions about the makeup of the chamber and funding by other government entities ($5,500 from the Versailles City Council and $5,000 from Woodford Fiscal Court). No member made a motion on the $1,500 funding, and Vandegrift said he thought not funding the chamber at all would send a bad message. Roller made a motion to use $1,000 of the city's $3,500 donations budget for the chamber, and the measure passed unanimously. 5-K run event permit The council unanimously approved an event permit for the Nov. 12 Hope For Tomorrow 5-K run. Amy Scarboro, an employee of John's Run/Walk Shop, said the non-profit charity benefits Guatemalan children.