Monetary loan

Sidewalk repair hits Independence homeowners hard as inflation drives up costs and loan rates | News

INDEPENDENCE – When a sidewalk collapses, money worries begin. This is how John Bodnovits sees it. He vividly remembers the moment a few years ago when he opened a letter from the city informing him that the sidewalk in front of his old house needed fixing. He risked having a lien placed against his house if he did not take corrective action.

Bodnovits still has no idea how the causeway caught the attention of the Independence Public Works Department. The estimates for the work turned out to be more expensive than he could have imagined.

“I remember thinking ‘I just can’t pay that much’,” he recalled.

So he took to social media and posted his dilemma – then managed to secure a more reasonably priced offer from a local masonry company. But, although it meets the demands of the city in a more affordable way, Bodnovits thinks owners have too few options. The price is likely to be even more alarming now, he predicted; The cost of building materials has increased dramatically.

“Some people just get by,” he said.

Recently, other owners received the same type of correspondence that Bodnovits had – they range from a pensioner to a city staff member – and all were told they had to perform the same mandatory curbside repair. . How can this happen? The process is complaint-driven, so a municipal inspection is triggered at a specific location. Individual owners found in apparent violation of the code are then notified.

The uneven sidewalk often involves more than one house. The result: a cluster of mailings. Currently, it will likely cost several thousand dollars per owner, according to some of those who have received reviews. Bodnovits seems more outspoken than most. He wonders why funds have been invested to attract tourists from outside – a monetary sum to build infrastructure near the hotel and to buy trolleybuses – while those who live in Independence are responsible for paying for the renovation on their own sidewalks.

He’s not the only one asking questions.

Trees are often part of the streetscape in new developments, but they end up disrupting sidewalks, observed Independence Councilor Sarah Jobe. Over time, it’s “tree growth that can cause this damage,” she said, adding that repairing sidewalks is the responsibility of the homeowner.

The costs of cement works right now “can be a pretty big deal, financially speaking,” agreed Curtis Tidmore, a board member of the Independence Historic Preservation Commission who lives in one of the neighborhoods. the oldest in the city, a part of the city where some sidewalks contain old remains.

“Something like sidewalks can come as a surprise to homeowners because they often don’t have a budget for something like that,” he added.

Currently, there is no financial assistance for homeowners to help repair broken or dislodged sidewalks, but the city is offering to waive right-of-way fees for homeowners who engage in sidewalk repairs. , according to Acting City Manager Robert Mason.

“I will say that in the past we’ve participated in programs that helped qualified owners for assistance,” Mason said.

“This was done through a workforce development program that we supported locally that specifically repaired sidewalks for those who qualified financially to participate,” he explained.

The program was designed for young adults learning a skill under the supervision of a licensed contractor to help replace sidewalks.

“We asked if it was possible that a similar program could resurface in the future, but at this time we are not sure if that will happen,” he said.

There is no doubt that some sidewalks are in poor condition. However, comments on this run the gamut: some residents ask to advise the public to look more carefully to avoid trips and falls, others want to know why city administrators are advocating for a “pedestrian-friendly” future. when the sidewalks are broken. and even non-existent in some regions.

“Tree roots pushing through the sidewalk make it look like an earthquake has happened,” said Shay Galloway, who lives along 4th Street.

As a result, her two children are not allowed to skate or ride scooters on the sidewalk, she said.

“Trees are tearing up the sidewalks,” said Steve Means, who has a small, wheeled “tote cart” that he pulls to Winco for shopping.

It’s often necessary to get away from spilled concrete, “and then you’re on the street, with cars speeding by,” he said.

Three years ago, the Oregon Department of Transportation released a report on the importance of sidewalks, noting that they are essential for social interaction, from where neighbors meet to where freedom of expression is exercised in complete safety by citizens carrying signs.

For many, sidewalks are where the daily ritual of dog walking takes place. However, “many of the sidewalks toward the southern part of town are mostly gravel,” said downtown dog owner Jim Scanlan.

The challenge of sidewalk maintenance has made it a subject of academic study. Transportation planner Deep Patel, who published a graduation thesis on sidewalks three years ago while a master’s student at Georgia Tech, found that among 82 cities surveyed in 45 states, 40 % of cities required owners to pay the full cost of the sidewalk. maintenance, 46% shared the cost with owners and only 13% of cities paid the full cost.

However, sidewalks can be expected to need repair after an average of 40 years, according to his findings.

Suggestions for solving what some city planners call the “broken sidewalk problem” have included creating a special low-cost charge for sidewalk maintenance and establishing so-called “point de vente,” in which microloans are provided by the city to homeowners for sidewalk repairs – loans that can be repaid when the home is sold.

Another possibility is for sidewalks to be inspected at the time of resale to determine if the construction of new sidewalks should be part of an escrow agreement.

The latter approach was recommended by Donald Shoup, professor of urban planning at UCLA, who was cited as one of the leading experts in the field by Independence planning chief Fred Evander.

Evander presented some of Shoup’s research on cities at a recent session of the Independence Planning Commission. Two weeks ago, when asked about sidewalks after the issue surfaced for local property owners, Evander noted that cement walkways were under the public works department.

City officials were also asked about Bodnovits’ claims about the city’s spending on hotel infrastructure and trolleybuses. Trolley start-up costs and early line expenses are paid from funds appropriated by the state legislature, they said.

The Independence Landing project, which includes the hotel, is nearly able to pay off debt within the limits of the urban renewal agency’s obligation, according to former city manager Tom Pessemier, who said before he left that the money generated there “closes”. to match the payment.

Said there was a tax explanation for the two examples he cited, Bodnovits reiterated why he mentioned them.

“I just want to say that I think the people who live here should be the city’s priority,” he said.

(Trammart News Service, of Trammart Inc., is solely responsible for the style and content of the news reports it provides.)