Grandview Heights will continue to ask residents to pay for sidewalk repairs at their properties that aren't caused by street trees or part of the city's street-improvement program.
A proposed ordinance that would have seen the city assume the financial responsibility for all sidewalk repairs failed by a 4-2 vote during the June 3 meeting of Grandview Heights City Council.
The legislation's sponsor, Steve Reynolds, and councilwoman Melanie Houston voted in favor of the measure.
Council members Steve Gladman, Greta Kearns, Emily Keeler and Anthony Panzera voted against the ordinance. Councilman Chris Smith was absent from the meeting.
There are three ways in which sidewalks can be repaired or replaced in Grandview.
The city takes financial responsibility when a street tree causes the damage. Those repairs are part of the parks and recreation department's sidewalk program and are included in the list of projects to be complete through the program.
Since 2015, the parks and recreation sidewalk program's expenditures have totaled $63,593, with $29,623 spent in 2018.
The city also makes improvements to sidewalk ramps and curbs and completes other related work as part of its annual street-improvement program.
In 2017 and 2018, the sidewalk-repair portion of the street-improvement program totaled $1,332,084.
Reynolds said his ordinance was designed to address the remaining sidewalk repairs, which are the responsibility of property owners.
The city's building department inspects a quadrant of the city each year.
Reynolds introduced the ordinance in November, and prior to presenting the legislation, he asked for and received an estimation from Charles Boshane, director of building and zoning, about what the annual cost might be if the city took over the remaining cost of sidewalk repairs.
Boshane said that in late winter 2018, the city reviewed West Second Avenue from Northwest Boulevard to Grandview Avenue and several other streets adjacent to Second Avenue.
About 5% of the sidewalk area reviewed was found to be in need of repairs, Boshane reported. He presented an estimate of about $100,000 in annual cost for replacing or repairing sidewalks not damaged by street trees based on that percentage and using a repair-cost estimate of $11 per square foot.
The city has 22 linear miles of sidewalks.
In his own estimation he presented to council in April 2019, Reynolds increased the estimated cost per square foot to $13.50, about 75 cents more than the lowest-cost bid for last year's parks and recreation sidewalk program, and increased the sidewalk-panel width from 3 feet as Boshane presented to 4 feet.
Reynolds said his "more-conservative" estimation would total $166,000 per year for the sidewalk repairs.
The city has begun inspecting sidewalks for this year's program, Boshane said, but the process has been delayed because of a building department employee's illness.
It likely will be August before this year's inspections are complete and all sidewalks in need of repairs are marked, he said.
Properties where defects in the sidewalks have been found are marked immediately, and residents can begin to take care of the repairs right away if they choose, Boshane said.
Green X's that mark where sidewalks are in need of repair or replacement are beginning to appear around the city, Reynolds said.
"I've heard from residents in the last couple weeks who understand they need to do something with their sidewalks but are more than a bit distraught about having to go through the process to do it," he said.
Their concerns include contractors refusing to accept jobs that are under $6,000, Reynolds said.
His ordinance was designed not only to ease residents' financial burden but also to help them avoid the effort of arranging for sidewalk repairs to be made, he said.
Panzera leads council's recreation, service and public facilities committee, which had been reviewing Reynolds' proposed ordinance.
He said he was concerned that passing legislation mandating the city pay for all sidewalk repairs might put the city in a financial bind.
"We have to look at the long-term permanent obligations on the part of the city in terms of fiscal needs," Panzera said. "What we are (currently) doing is not legislated, it's voluntary and (the city's funding for sidewalk repairs) can vary on an annual basis, and because of that, it gives us a great deal of control."
The issue should be addressed administratively and not legislatively to determine if Reynolds' goals can be met in another way, Keeler said.
The city has pressing needs regarding its fire and police facilities, "and we have to prioritize," especially as the local government funds available from the state are diminishing, she said.
"I'd prefer to see something that would be a compromise with the administration on how to deal with this as opposed to taking on the financial burden permanently," Keeler said. "At least have a trial to see what it might look like as a cost to the city."
Houston said she considers the sidewalks, like the streets, part of the "fundamental infrastructure of our city," and they help provide the impression visitors have of Grandview.
The sidewalk repairs also are "a headache and a burden" for residents, she said.
All those reasons are why she voted for Reynolds' ordinance, Houston said.
City Attorney Joelle Khouzam noted the city's approach to sidewalk repairs "is geared toward compliance, not enforcement."
The city has been willing to work with residents, giving them time to be able to arrange and pay for the work to be completed at their properties, she said.
When her own sidewalk was marked for repairs, the building department gave her a list of reputable contractors while not endorsing any of them, Khouzam said.