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Xenia Ave. walks to be fixed

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At its Aug. 3 meeting, Village Council voted to enhance walkability in the village by moving ahead with a long-planned project to repair sidewalks on the east side of Xenia Avenue between Friends Care Community and downtown. In accordance with a current Village ordinance, property owners whose walks are deemed subpar will be held responsible for the repair costs.

“We need to move forward and do it. We’ve been talking about this for three years,” said Kathryn Van der Heiden, who made the motion to proceed with the repairs.

The vote was 4–1, with Van der Heiden, John Booth, Lori Askeland and Karen Wintrow voting for the measure and Judith Hempfling voting against it. Hempfling had suggested that homeowners’ expenses should be capped.

The Xenia Avenue segment of village sidewalks has been deemed a priority for repair for several years, since it connects Friends Care Community, some of whose residents are in wheelchairs, with downtown. The Village Accessibility Committee has repeatedly emphasized the need for an upgrade to this sidewalk in order to allow safe passage for the disabled, although the group has also encouraged Council to repair all village sidewalks.

Villager Brad Myers, whose vision disability requires that he frequently walk on Xenia Avenue to get downtown, expressed his appreciation to Council for taking action.

“I’ve waited four years. Enough is enough,” he said.

The Xenia Avenue sidewalk upgrade was one of several projects put on the back burner after former Village Manager Eric Swansen resigned a year ago, and a search for a new manager began. In recent meetings, Council had returned to the topic, and tasked Manager Mark Cundiff with identifying sidewalk standards. Cundiff presented those standards at the Aug. 3 meeting.

According to the standards, sidewalks will be seen as needing repair or replacement if one or more of these conditions exist: a section has an open crack of a quarter-inch or more, or has a half-inch or more vertical displacement; adjoining portions differ vertically by a half-inch or more; there is a two-inch or higher rise in adjacent sections without offset; sections have depressions significant enough to hold mud or water; sections are significantly deteriorated; significant settlement has occurred; or the sidewalk contains material that does not provide a skid-resistant surface.

According to Cundiff on Tuesday, the effort will begin with an analysis of the Xenia Avenue sidewalks by Assistant Village Planner Ed Amrhein, to be completed by the end of August. Following that, property owners will be notified of any needed repairs, and they will have 90 days to either make the repairs themselves, hire someone to make them, or ask the Village to do the repairs.

If the repairs are not made within the 90 days, the Village will undertake the work, and charge the homeowner. If the bill is not paid, the cost will be added to the homeowner’s property tax, Cundiff said.

Currently, the Village has about $30,000 budgeted for the work, an amount which was originally intended for both sides of Xenia Avenue, according to Amrhein, who said that amount may allow the Village to tackle both sides of the street. The Village by law needs to have on hand sufficient funds to make the repairs, even though the expectation is that homeowners will repay the cost of their sections.

Several Council members and a villager expressed discomfort with levying costs of the repairs on homeowners, with Hempfling suggesting that $500 be the highest amount a homeowner would be required to pay. The cost of one 4′ x 5′ sidewalk segment is about $110, Cundiff said.

Charging homeowners is inherently unfair because some homes are on streets without any sidewalks, and therefore some villagers bear the financial brunt of the effort to enhance walkability, villager Helen Eier said.

But homeowners will recoup their costs with a higher valuation of their property with improved walks, according to Karen Wintrow. However, said Lori Askeland, stating that she “felt torn” about the issue of charging homeowners, sidewalks should not be viewed as amenities, but as a means of transportation, not unlike streets, for which the Village does take financial responsibility.

Other items of Council’s Aug. 3 business will be covered in next week’s News.

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