City commissioners do have some money in their 2007 budget to address sidewalk issues.
But the money is set aside to fill in gaps in the sidewalk network, not to fix existing sidewalks. The city's Public Works Department is recommending three projects to address sidewalk gaps:
¢ The south side of Sixth Street from Rockledge Road to Schwarz Road, with an estimated cost of $62,415.
¢ The north side of Ninth Street from Sunset Drive to Iowa Street, with an estimated cost of $35,370.
¢ The south side of Trail Road from Lawrence Avenue to Rockfence Place, with an estimated cost of $45,000.
Public works officials chose the sites based on how the streets are, the amount of pedestrian traffic, as well as other neighborhood issues such as the proximity of schools.
The pink paint is flowing in the 1500 block of New Hampshire Street, which means residents soon will need to start breaking out the green money.
Rodney Carr, 1512 N.H., recently came home to see the pink spray paint dotting the sidewalks up and down his street. It's the way city officials mark areas of sidewalk that are in such bad shape that they need repairs for safety reasons.
But under state and city laws, the government doesn't pay for the repairs. Instead, the property owner adjacent to the sidewalk is responsible for the repairs. For residents of the 1500 block of New Hampshire, that news has been about as popular as the loud stereo next door.
"This is not what you'd call a wealthy street. It's going to be a financial problem for quite a few people," Carr said of the notice, which gave residents until June 1 to fix the sidewalks or face the prospect of being taken to court by the city.
Having the city bear all the costs of repairs - as it does for streets - might be a problem for taxpayers. A 2006 city report estimated 10.2 miles of sidewalks are rated as critical - meaning they have rises or dips that are greater than 2 inches or are largely covered with weeds or grass. There's an additional 42.2 miles of sidewalks that are rated poor.
At the current price of about $40 per foot to replace a standard sidewalk, that equates to a little more than $2 million the city would have to spend to fix the critical sidewalks. Another $9 million would be needed to fix the poor sidewalks.
Public works leaders - the folks who own the pink paint cans - want to know what city commissioners want to do. Currently, the Public Works Department forces people to make sidewalk repairs only if the area has been the subject of a specific complaint.
But Chuck Soules, director of public works, said his department could get more aggressive in sending out repair notices to property owners, regardless of whether a complaint has been filed.
Some city commissioners have said they have interest in becoming more aggressive, but only if the city can make the financial process a little easier for homeowners to swallow.
New City Commissioner Mike Dever said he's interested in creating a system in which the city would provide low-interest financing for homeowners to repair their sidewalks. The property owners could repay the city by paying a little extra each month on their utility bills.
Commissioner Boog Highberger is willing to go a step further. He said he's interested in providing financing to homeowners, but also thinks the city at-large should pay a percentage of all sidewalk repair costs.
"I think that might be a better way to share the burden more fairly," Highberger said.
But Highberger admits he doesn't know how the city would raise the money to cover its share of the costs. He said it likely would take some type of new tax or fee.
Dever said he has no interest in creating a new sidewalk fee that all residents would pay.
The issue is expected to be a topic of discussion as commissioners this summer craft a budget for 2008. Soules said he would like the City Commission to consider something that would allow some of the city's worst sidewalks to be repaired now instead of waiting for a problem or complaint.
"We do have some safety issues," Soules said. "There are some definite tripping hazards out there."