Archive for Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sidewalk step

A proposal to make all property owners share the responsibility for sidewalk maintenance is both fair and practical.

July 9, 2009

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It’s never a good time to raise taxes, even if we’re only talking about 25 or 50 cents a month, but a fee that would allow the city to take over maintenance of residential sidewalks has an element of fairness that makes it worth serious consideration.

Currently, maintaining and/or replacing residential sidewalks is the responsibility of the owners of the property the sidewalks cross. That means that people with sidewalks on their property bear an unfair burden for providing a service for everyone in their neighborhood.

Perhaps of even more concern to city officials, however, is that many property owners simply can’t or won’t find the money to repair or replace sidewalks that have become unsightly and unsafe for local pedestrians. Despite various attempts to work with property owners and finance needed sidewalk work, the city’s sidewalk maintenance problems continue to grow.

To address that problem, City Manager David Corliss is asking city commissioners to consider tacking a small sidewalk maintenance fee onto water and sewer bills. Everyone, whether they have a sidewalk on their property or not, would be required to pay a fee based on the amount of footage their property has on a public street. Corliss is proposing a fee of a half cent or full cent per month; for a typical 50-foot lot, that would amount to either 25 cents or 50 cents per month.

The $200,000 or $400,000 the fee would generate each year would allow the city to get to work on some of the most pressing sidewalk needs. Hopefully, that would be enough money to fund a sustainable program that would keep the city’s sidewalks in acceptable, if not pristine, condition.

Property owners, by the way, still would be responsible for removing snow from the sidewalks, as required by a city ordinance passed last year.

Safe sidewalks for Lawrence pedestrians are just as much a municipal responsibility as safe streets for Lawrence motorists. It only makes sense that the expense of maintaining public sidewalks should be shared by everyone who uses those sidewalks, not shoved off on individual property owners.

A fee of $3 to $6 a year for most property owners would hardly be noticed. It certainly is minuscule compared to the cost individual property owners would bear to replace a stretch of sidewalk. Taking over sidewalk maintenance would be a philosophical shift for Lawrence, but it would let the city take control of a situation that has challenged city officials for many years. Unless city commissioners can identify significant problems with Corliss’ idea, they should move ahead on this fair and practical solution for Lawrence’s sidewalks.

Comments

igby 5 years, 12 months ago

This is not a fair plan. I have over 200 feet of side walk and keep it repaired my self. Why should I have to pay for some slumlord or someone who says they can't pay to fix their own sidewalk. This money will get squandered on the bums.

There are slum lords all over town who never fix their side walk and if you own the house you should fix it your self.

Chris Ogle 5 years, 12 months ago

You know what they say about opinions.... everybody has one. Well here is mine: This is bulls***.

What's next, taxing my sidewalk as impervious area???

LogicMan 5 years, 12 months ago

"Why should I have to pay for some slumlord or someone who says they can't pay to fix their own sidewalk."

Now they would pay, via their fees to the city. And unlike now, their sidewalks would eventually get fixed (by the city).

The proposed fee is too small -- make it big enough (~$2/mo., on average) to start a significant annual building/rebuilding program.

deskboy04 5 years, 12 months ago

I hope that the city makes sure that it has enough money to spend on art projects.

monkeyhawk 5 years, 12 months ago

Where exactly in the city are the most needed repairs? I suspect it may be in the older neighborhoods, thus making this "fair" tax another example of spreading the wealth.

vega 5 years, 12 months ago

Sharing expenses for sidewalks repair among all citizens of Lawrence is rational and fair.

Janet Lowther 5 years, 12 months ago

Years ago, the city sent a contractor and built a sidewalk in front of my old house.

The sidewalk was built without a single bit of reinforcing steel.

Miraculously it has held up pretty well for about 20 years, but as infrastructure investments go, 20 years old is practically new.

Since the city built it without asking permission, they should be responsible for maintaining it.

bearded_gnome 5 years, 12 months ago

Red Dog propaganda? huh?


The $200,000 or $400,000 the fee would generate each year would allow the city to get to work on some of the most pressing sidewalk needs. Hopefully, that would be enough money to fund a sustainable program that would keep the city’s sidewalks in acceptable, if not pristine, condition.

---misuse of "hopefully," it is an adverb.

well, sidewalks are in effect property that is taken from the free use of the landowner. it has always seemed wrong to me that the landowner is then responsible for the upkeep. are you responsible for the upkeep on just the stretch of road in front of your house?

Bob Burton 5 years, 12 months ago

Sidewalks are usually built on the street rightway, that means they belong to the city.. They are robbing you if they create this law..

basketballer 5 years, 12 months ago

I hope since this is going to happen now, that people "City" will be out to do the upkeep, maintance on the sidewalks....unlike the pot hole issues and all the black rubber like filling that was put on 6th street and along Iowa that is now coming up and have created even bigger and more frequest holes along the road "especially" from around Capital Federal on Iowa all the way down the hill to 15th and Iowa. I see this fee being adding on, good and bad, bad in the sense that my grandmother for instance, lives in old west Lawrence and her and her neighbors already keep there sidewalks up and help each other. Myself and all my brothers and sister take turns shoveling snow and taking our grandmother (who lives alone) trashcans down etc. It is a bad idea for her because she already lives on a very rediculously low income each month and has to pay sewer and trash and electric and gas and property tax and recieves commodities to make it and now this increase is gonna nix her even more. On the other hand, trying to look at it in a positive light, I hope that the sidewalks and maintance that they say will happen will be done, so that my 85 year old grandma can enjoy nice sidewalks with less work on her part. I really hope this whole deal works the way they say.

Stuart Evans 5 years, 12 months ago

boycott sidewalks, and roads for that matter. you'll find me walking & driving in the grass from here on out!

Stuart Evans 5 years, 12 months ago

"well, sidewalks are in effect property that is taken from the free use of the landowner. it has always seemed wrong to me that the landowner is then responsible for the upkeep. are you responsible for the upkeep on just the stretch of road in front of your house?"


I was thinking the same thing about sidewalks. this is your land, and the city comes and declares it a public right of way, but the owner still has to pay for fixing these "improvements".

well, the utility company does that as well with poles and powerlines. Should the landowner be held responsible for maintaining those items as well?

Ricky_Vaughn 5 years, 12 months ago

Always trying to gouge the property owners.....

I'd feel better if it was in the form of a sales tax hike. That way, the transient student population pays for part of it too.

I can't believe the city hasn't planned on fixing the sidewalks for years. Those cruddy, ankle-twisting, 100-year-old brick sidewalks are waaay overdue.

George Lippencott 5 years, 12 months ago

I think that sharing the costs of sidewalk repairs is a great idea. Why, however, is the city charging by the linear foot? If the sidewalk is for the common good why not charge a flat rate since everybody benefits more or less equally? Not only am I blessed with the cost of maintaining the public sidewalk (shovel/trim) I must now pay a higher tax because I have more of it??? It isn't mine!!!

Kryptenx 5 years, 12 months ago

If it really is my property and my responsibility to maintain the sidewalk, then the city shouldn't have a problem with me removing them. I suspect that if I was to try this, I would be told that I cannot. So who is responsible for the sidewalks?

City government has many purposes, with one of the most important being infrastructure. Sidewalks are a very integral part of moving around the city for some people, as roads are to others. Sidewalk maintenence should never have been forced upon the homeowner, and should have remained the city's responsibility since day 1.

laika 5 years, 12 months ago

Ricky_Vaughn (Anonymous) says…

Always trying to gouge the property owners…..

I'd feel better if it was in the form of a sales tax hike. That way, the transient student population pays for part of it too.


What? As the editorial clearly states, this is not a proposed property tax increase but rather a proposed increase to water/sewer bills. As one of those "transient students" I just happen to receive one of those gems (a water/trash/sewage bill) from the city every month. Guess what? So does every other student who rents a house. As for apartments, I assume the city would take this into consideration, or property owners renting subdivided houses without separate utilities would pass the cost on to renters. Either way, a large percentage of students would be involved in paying for these improvements, hardly supporting your typical characterization of inattentive "transient" student residents.

As for the proposed fee, the city should really look into fixing the sidewalks in the student ghetto, which are frequently used but currently treacherous, especially in the winter. East Lawrence could also use a lot of work.

Bob Burton 5 years, 12 months ago

Most sidewalks are on the road rightaway.. The road rightaway is owned by the city.. It is not a easement, you will find that your property stops at the sidewalk or close to it.. The street rightaway can be measured, they are normally 40 feet or 60 feet or 80 feet or bigger..

GardenMomma 5 years, 12 months ago

25 cents a month now, $2 a month soon, $10 a month eventually.

notjustastudent 5 years, 12 months ago

As somebody who walks all over this town, I think this is a great idea. But I think moderate's idea is even better- it does seem unfair to pay by length, and a flat fee would be more reasonable and rational for all residents. But I'm not sure how it would work in each situation- for example, if a landlord pays the water bill for an entire house split into more than one residence (as is the case most often in the student ghetto) would they only pay one fee, where as a house split into apartments only has one sidewalk, but would each resident receiving a water bill pay? Either way, this needs work...

overthemoon 5 years, 12 months ago

It's hard to come up with an equitable sidewalk plan in this city. Most of the 70's-80's neighborhoods don't even have sidewalks. That was a great time for planning ideas! I think this is the fairest solution they've come up with.

At my old house, there was a sewer manhole in the middle of the sidewalk. It was almost a foot higher than the sidewalk and the adjoining curb. I talked to the city several times about working with me and paying for the remediation of a problem I didn't cause, but they wouldn't. Even more interesting, they said I had to fix/replace my walk, even though the sidewalk abruptly ends two houses down the road. I would have loved to tear it out, but no, couldn't do that either!!

igby 5 years, 12 months ago

When the Oread district was built from 1860 to 1885, all the sidewalks were paid for by each property owner, every dam brick. Not one brick was paid for by the city.

The sidewalks are a fixture of each home individually and all add to enhance the properties curb appeal and offer access to the properties. These sidewalks should of never become part of the cities right of way to begin with; the city stole this right of way later and claimed it for the common good for themselves and the public. However, truth be known, when the gas company and water department and sewer was being planned they wanted this additional street right of way so that the city could molest the properties frontage for these street utilities. The easyest way to do this was to push the land owners property line back behind the sidewalk so that the city could use the public domain laws in the installation of all the different services without one property owner refusing to let the service go through their property.

In doing so the city never intended to maintain the sidewalk in the first place, they just wanted it for a landmark barrier for control and demanded that the property owner continue to maintain the sidewalk that the city claimed as public domain.

Each property owner should be able to option out of this city controlled public domain on the sidewalk. For over 100 years the city have spent nothing maintaining these residential sidewalks, they should give them back to the landowner and require the landowner to maintain them to suitable standards.

Give us back our sidewalks!

KansasPerson 5 years, 12 months ago

What percentage of residences in Lawrence are owner-occupied vs. rented?

Every place I've ever rented, I've paid the utility bills myself. Not the landlord.

I don't think it's fair to make renters pay for sidewalk upkeep if ti's the property owners that are supposed to be paying it..... but as I indicated, I don't know how many people in Lawrence are renting. It might be a small percentage for all I know. (I mean, renting AND paying utility bills, as opposed to having the landlord pay them and then include it in the rent.)

p.s. And we don't even have a sidewalk in front of our house!

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