Archive for Friday, January 20, 2006

Sidewalk cracks bad luck for property owners

Some wonder whether there’s a better system for keeping our walkways in good repair

January 20, 2006


City Hall doesn't have its list yet.

But marathon runner Dennis Anthony has already done some legwork that may help as city staff members work to identify the city's worst sidewalks.

"That one's been there a long time," Anthony said, pointing out a bump in the sidewalk at he steered his SUV past the northwest corner of Bob Billings Parkway and Kasold Drive. "I've avoided that one many times."

Anthony, a chiropractor who wakes each morning at 4:30 a.m. to train, contacted the Journal-World and offered to give a tour of the most glaring sidewalk problems and discrepancies he sees on his daily runs.

Anthony said that he didn't want to be depicted as an angry citizen or troublemaker, but that his examples helped show how the city's system for maintaining sidewalks was falling short.

"Things are not consistent," he said. "There should be some type of control over it."

List of problems

Here are some of the highlights from Anthony's "tour":

¢ Centennial Park, Sixth and Iowa streets. People who are walking east along the south side of Sixth Street have a sidewalk until they reach the park, at which point they must cross Sixth Street to keep on a sidewalk.

"That's our city park," Anthony said, marveling at its lack of a sidewalk.

¢ Sixth and Kasold. Even though the city just finished a major road-construction project here, there's still no sidewalk along the south side of Sixth Street in front of the Westgate shopping center. The sidewalk adjacent to the shopping center ends abruptly, with a utility pole directly in front of the spot where the sidewalk ends.

¢ Hidden Valley Camp, Bob Billings Parkway and Kasold Drive. Anthony said he watched the sidewalk begin to settle and crack after a utility company put a pipe under the street recently, but no one has fixed it.

¢ Bob Billings Parkway near Crossgate Drive. When two new homes were built in the past year, Anthony said he watched construction vehicles drive back and forth across the sidewalk along the north side of Bob Billings Parkway, leaving it with large cracks.

"They just beat this sidewalk all up to heck," he said. "Who pays for this?"

¢ Lawrence Police Department Investigations & Training Center, Bob Billings Parkway and Wakarusa Drive. The sidewalk in front of the building, which the police department began occupying in 2001, is cracked and bumpy.

l Bob Billings Parkway and Foxfire Drive. Anthony pointed out two spots on the curb that were dented when city crews did curb work there in the fall. Workers spray-painted two pairs of pink arrows showing two spots where the concrete needed to be repaired, but nothing's happened so far.

"I could tell you places all throughout town," he said. "This is just the tip of the iceberg."

City creating inventory

Under Kansas law, sidewalk maintenance is the responsibility of the adjacent property owner. But unlike some other cities, Lawrence has no money earmarked for fixing the worst problems as they come up.

At the request of the City Commission, city staff members are creating an inventory that will show which streets have sidewalks and which don't. Eventually, it could be used to track the worst sidewalks and prioritize them for repairs.

"I bet we could employ at least two people" dedicated to monitoring sidewalks, public works director Chuck Soules said. "If that's a priority of the commission, we can pull people off of something and put them on other projects."

'A top priority'

Commissioner Sue Hack said she thought Anthony's concerns were on target.

"I think cities are defined by their streets and sidewalks. Those need to be in good repair, and we need to be setting the example for that," she said.

But the question is who foots the bill for a better system.

"If our theme in this community is connectivity and walkability, then providing the facilities to do that has to be a top priority," Hack said. "That's going to have to be looked at in terms of what we do with public spending. Is the community willing to have taxes raised to do that?"


YourItalianPrincess 12 years, 5 months ago

The sidewalks are horrible in most places in Lawrence. The ones on the East side of town are brick and unlevel.

I walk my daycare kids and they trip all the time. We walk to and from the school to pick up other kids and I have kids falling all the time.

Baille 12 years, 5 months ago

"Under Kansas law, sidewalk maintenance is the responsibility of the adjacent property owner. But unlike some other cities, Lawrence has no money earmarked for fixing the worst problems as they come up."

If the damage is caused by another, that entity orperson should be responsible for the damage. Small Claims court would be available against a private contractor or utility company. How would one sue the city for damage caused by its crews? Anyone know the proper procedure?

glockenspiel 12 years, 5 months ago

Yeah, I stumbled drunk out of the Hawk and face planted on a crappy sidewalk. I want retribution!

Ceallach 12 years, 5 months ago

The sidewalks on the North side of W 7th Street between Louisiana and Kentucky are to be avoided at all costs! They are soooo uneven. I can only assume the city commissioners want them to match the potholes in our streets. They have traditionally favored keeping impassable roads and walks as a matched pair. If provoked to action the city may decide to put little roundabout walks to deter traffic from the broken or uneven areas:)

Kathleen Christian 12 years, 5 months ago

I just wish I had a sidewalk on my street so my child could ride his play car on. We have to go up the street but then again that sidewalk is either crumbled in places, cracked or caved in and lumpy from a giant tree root. It's been that way for the 9 years I've lived around here. You know it always grabs me when city's & government want to raise taxes to do these sort of things. When the tax burden mostly affects the lower paid. I just feel government officials need to lower their paychecks and I agree with Other that "If we had all the dollars spent in the past on ridiculous studies and surveys, we could probably have brand new sidewalks throughout the City." Too much tax money is being wasted, when it could be spent more wisely.

Bobo Fleming 12 years, 5 months ago

two surgeries, $50,000 in medical bills for a fractured wrist in front of a lawrence bread store.

badger 12 years, 5 months ago

I'm seeing that some of these come from utility companies or city repairs.

I think that the owner ought not to be liable for sidewalk repairs if the gas company or the city came out, dug up the sidewalk or the dirt around it, and then did a bad job cleaning up after their job and left the sidewalk to sink, crack, or settle. Homeowners don't get a choice about whether or not the gas or water company replaces or repairs a line - or about who does the work and how they do it, really.

However, if you hired a contractor and that contractor damaged your sidewalk, well, you hired him and didn't make sure he didn't trash your sidewalk. If you hired a plumber who broke your windows, the city won't force the plumber to pay, and the window company won't come to your house and say, "Hey, no charge, it was the plumber's fault." If he doesn't agree that he is responsible for the broken windows, you have to take him to court and prove that he should pay for them. By the same token, you should take the contractor to court for the cost of replacing the sidewalk you're responsible for maintaining if he broke it while working for you.

Personally, I would rather that the city assume responsibility for the sidewalks so the repairs could be somewhat consistent instead of leaving homeowners to pay for them and maintain them as they can, but right now the laws say that homeowners have that responsibility, and like keeping a mailbox or repairing it if it gets damaged (something else you don't really have a choice on but have to pay for), it's something that should go into your planned repair budget.

Godot 12 years, 5 months ago

The city needs to quit wasting money on luxuries and tend to the infrastructure. We don't need a tax increase, we need a new city commission.

bearded_gnome 12 years, 5 months ago

indeed I am in agreement with OTTR 100%!

and the places listed in the article for sidewalk, mostly very small, relatively recent, problems compared to the older, much more massive and widespread problems in Oread, all east of Mass, old west lawrence, etc! not just spots where the work had beat up one place or two, but *the entire blocks!

for years, lawrence has indeed frittered money on all kinds of stuff instead of infrastructure. now, its bighting, andc the tag to fix right is very high!

--> Ceallach, mums on the walking roundabouts, these fools will start installing 'em instead of fixing the sidewalks!

Linda Endicott 12 years, 5 months ago

When a sidewalk is considered as being on the city right of way, then the city should pay for repairs. All homeowners don't have the money to do this.

If the resident owns the sidewalk enough to be required to pay for repairs of it, then they should be able to dictate who can and cannot walk on it, shouldn't they? You own your it up to you or the city as to who can go inside?

Linda Aikins 12 years, 5 months ago

kpippen, you're being kind of hard on the good doctor because he keeps in shape, aren't you?

I think Richard Simmons shorts look good on some guys!

And I agree with you too crazy.

tolawdjk 12 years, 5 months ago

good point or not, you are going to find it an impossible position to defend.

You own a house, you repair the sidewalk. Its a fact of home ownership.

You own a house, you have to maintain any right of ways on your property, but those right of ways can be used at anytime.

You don't have to like it, you just have to accept it.

Godot 12 years, 5 months ago

According to the US Dept of Transportation, maintaining sidewalks is required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is not unusual for for cities to require property owners to maintain their own sidewalks, but it is the city's responsibility to monitor the condition of the sidewalks and oversee their repair.

The City of Lawrence has not been doing its job in this regard.

badger 12 years, 5 months ago

I don't get your logic, there, kpippen.

It is a fact that the government can require you to maintain the right of way and allow others to use it.

I don't like it and I think it's a bad idea (and I DO live in an apartment), but it honestly is how it is.

However, I still think that if the city utility broke your sidewalk, the city utility better darn well fix it. That's not about maintaining the right of way, that's about people not being able to damage property and just walk away leaving others to eat the cost.

spikey_mcmarbles 12 years, 5 months ago

I watch a Lawrence Ready Mix concrete truck drive over the sidewalk at the SW corner of 2nd and Alabama, and the truck broke up the sidewalk in a big way. I called the city inspection department, but yet nothing has been done to fix it. LRM didn't care, the construction company building the houses (Clovis Construction) didn't care, and apparently the city doesn't care either. But the residents of that neighborhood are stuck with a busted up sidewalk.

But then again, why should the city care about sidewalks when they don't care about the curbs and gutters that fall apart less than one year after being poured?

blessed3x 12 years, 5 months ago

Since the holidays are over, maybe you could borrow a couple of the Salvation Army's red kettles and put one on your broken down sidewalk at each entrance to your property. That way people can drop in a nickel or a dime for the privilege of walking on your sidewalk. After a year or two, you should have plenty of money to build a new one.

And if the walkers complain, well...drivers have to pay a tax when they purchase gasoline to repair the roads. Just consider this your walking tax to repair the sidewalks around town!

You could even have the right to name your own little stretch of the Lawrence Sidewalk Turnpike.

76_IH_Scout_Dad 12 years, 5 months ago

Part of the responsibilities of being a home owner is keeping the sidewalk in repair. The home owner accepted that responsibility upon purchasing the home. Now, if a home owner didn't want that responsibility, they should of chosen to purchase a home without a sidewalk. Anyone who owns a home with a sidewalk should keep it in repair, you technically agreed to upon signing your mortgage papers. Sorry, can't back out now. The only exception is if you bought a home, and a side walk was added at a later date. At that point, the city should make some arrangement with the home owners to share the repair costs.

Also, does anyone have any data on how much more (if any) homes with sidewalks sale for verses those that don't?

badger 12 years, 5 months ago

blessed3x said:

"You could even have the right to name your own little stretch of the Lawrence Sidewalk Turnpike."

Hi, I'm here from the Universal Mandatory Activist Group. We've noticed that one corner of your yard floods when it rains, so we've taken the liberty of declaring your entire property a protected wetland.

Additionally, you failed to file plans for your proposed extension of the Lawrence Sidewalk Turnpike (henceforth called LST for ease of media reference), so we peeked in your windows to see the little diagram you drew up on that napkin. You'd stepped out of the room to warm up your coffee; you really should try soy milk, because several of our members are really outraged about the condition of dairy farming -- FOCUS! Sorry, got a little sidetracked there.

Anywho, we notice that your 'plan' takes this development through the Winton Family Hamster, Gerbil, and Unidentified Rodent Remains Burial Patch, so you'll have to fill out these forms and secure eleven signatures in invisible ink before we can even consider denying your permit for the extension. In the meantime, here are fourteen injunctions against the LST and a carton of Silk soymilk.


Peace out!

Linda Endicott 12 years, 5 months ago

I don't really like this whole idea of right of way and how it's used, no matter how many cities use it and how legal it may be. I don't think it's right.

Cities began doing this, probably, so they could go on a property to repair things, without having to get the express consent of the homeowners first. But I think the whole thing has backfired on residents. Now it's used as a means to keep the city from paying for things that they really should be responsible for.

I lived in a house once (not in Lawrence, but the laws are the same here) and saw a guy walking on my terrace, using a metal detector, sitting out there, staring at me, practically having a picnic, basically using it as his own property, and I called the police. You never know what some loonies are up to these days. I was told they couldn't do anything about it, couldn't make the guy move, as it was the city right of way and therefore city property, even though I paid taxes on it.

I suspect Lawrence is the same next time a pedophile stands on your terrace and stares at your kids, don't bother calling the police...they won't do anything. If some homeless person comes along and decides to sleep on your terrace some night, see if you can get the cops to do anything. They won't here. Is Lawrence different?

wonderhorse 12 years, 5 months ago


I think you said "hotsie, totsie". Definitely not PC--for shame.

wonderhorse 12 years, 5 months ago


Sorry, it was "hotsie cutsie". That and the other post are on the OTS. They are still there. You still stand guilty before the PC police.

Linda Aikins 12 years, 5 months ago

C1 - so much for that good night's sleep!

Thanks anyway!

jenlynn 12 years, 5 months ago

If it's the adjacent property owner's responsibility to keep their sidewalk in repair, why does the city need to worry about the money? Oh, I know-- because the city doesn't enforce it's other property codes (like, say, fence requirements) so why should it force property owners to keep up their sidewalks?

Commenting has been disabled for this item.