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Council changes sidewalk policy

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At their March 21 meeting, members of Village Council gave the final approval to an ordinance that changes Village policy on sidewalk maintenance, shifting the responsibility for upkeep from property owners to the Village.

The vote was 3–1, with Judith Hempfling, Lori Askeland and Rick Walkey voting in favor and Karen Wintrow opposed. John Booth was not present.

The issue of maintaining Village sidewalks has been a Council discussion item for many years. The previous Village policy held property owners financially responsible for maintaining subpar sidewalks, but previous Councils have been reluctant to enforce that policy and bill sidewalk owners for needed repairs. Consequently, sidewalks have been poorly maintained, according to the Village Disability Committee, which has repeatedly urged Council to make sidewalk repairs. Especially of concern to the committee were Xenia Avenue sidewalks between the Friends Care Center and downtown, which wheelchair-bound villagers sometimes used.

In discussions about the change last fall, Council members emphasized that walkability is a priority in the village, and that therefore the sidewalks should be considered a Village government responsibility, in the same way that streets are considered a municipal responsibility.

While Council members voted on the new ordinance’s first reading in October, at the second reading in November, there were many questions raised by villagers, including whether the Village should also assume responsibility for snow and ice removal in winter, which is currently the property owner’s responsibility, and the financial costs involved in the policy shift.

In response to those questions, Village Manager Mark Cundiff in a memo at the March 21 meeting clarified that the new ordinance makes the Village responsible only for repair/replacement of the sidewalks rather than snow removal, which would incur far more Village government expense. Property owners remain responsible for removing snow and ice during winter. The new policy also does not change the Village’s current policy regarding sidewalk construction in areas where there are no sidewalks, which is a separate decision, Cundiff wrote.

This year’s budget includes $30,000 that has been earmarked for sidewalk repair, Cundiff said.

Karen Wintrow, in voting against the new ordinance, expressed discomfort with what she perceived as a lack of dedicated funding to sidewalk repair. However, Council can revisit the issue on a yearly basis to see how it’s working, Rick Walkey said.

Council needs to move forward to address an issue that has remained unaddressed for too long, Hempfling said.

“We’ve discussed this for the five and a half years I’ve been on Council and nothing got repaired,” she said. “If we hold it now, nothing will get done.”


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