Property owners should fix their own sidewalks, a city committee recommended.
If you can afford it, you should fix it.
That's the attitude this year of the city's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Advisory Committee, which rejected more than $35,000 worth of requests to repair sidewalks in three target neighborhoods.
James C. Dunn, who chairs the committee, said there just wasn't enough money in the city's anticipated $1.01 million CDBG budget to finance sidewalk projects -- especially when current law requires that individual property owners pick up the tab when their sidewalks fall into disrepair.
"The property owner is supposed to maintain the sidewalk," said Dunn, a Lawrence landlord. "If we use this funding, and it's done carte blanche, then the property owner is relieved of that responsibility. And having a lot of funds come through this venue was creating a lot of confusion."
The federal government provides cities with CDBG grants to help them improve neighborhoods qualifying as low- to moderate-income. This year's qualifying neighborhoods are Brook Creek, East Lawrence, North Lawrence, Oread and Pinckney.
Sidewalk repairs have been among approved projects in Lawrence in years past.
This year, however, the advisory committee has recommended setting aside only $3,000 for sidewalk repairs -- enough to rebuild sidewalks in front of three typical homes, said Robert Baker, a former committee chair.
That's not enough, he said.
"It's really penny-wise and pound-foolish," said Baker, who plans to attend tonight's public hearing to discuss the recommendations. "That's how neighborhoods die. People don't want to move into neighborhoods that look like they're falling apart."
But Janet Gerstner, a committee member, said many of the sidewalk proposals from the Brook Creek, East Lawrence and Oread neighborhoods would help properties owned by landlords or non-Lawrence residents.
The city needs to follow up on its current policy of condemning damaged sidewalks and requiring property owners to pay for repairs, she said. The $3,000 sidewalk renovation fund would be reserved for people who live in their own homes and couldn't otherwise afford repairs.
"The condition of sidewalks is an extremely important factor to the well-being of a neighborhood," she said."That's actually a very good use of the money, but as there's less money available it becomes a problem."
The city's CDBG budget is down 20 percent from last year.
Among projects recommended for financing:
- Historic markers in the Pinckney neighborhood, $3,000.
- Brick street restoration -- $2,400 in East Lawrence and $3,600 in Oread.
- Landscaping and sign repair in Brook Creek Park, $1,900.
Tonight's public hearing provides a chance for committee members to reassess their recommendations before taking them to the Lawrence City Commission for approval June 4.