Syracuse Plan To Take Over Sidewalk Repair And Replacement Inches Forward
The plan to have the city of Syracuse take over responsibility for repair and replacement of sidewalks has taken another step forward. Common councilors Monday cleared the way for the initial $4.5 million roll-out of the program to come up for a vote in two weeks.
Before now, councilors have been debating the details, and have had trouble agreeing to even allow it on the agenda. Today, Councilor Khalid Bey agreed to move ahead despite earlier reservations.
"There are legitimate concerns that councilors have expressed, and that gives us time. I'll reiterate that all councilors to my knowledge support the idea of a sidewalk program. But because we all support it doesn't mean we all agree on execution."
City director of operations Corey Driscoll Dunham says councilor concerns have been valid, and they've addressed them by sharing more information and making some changes.
"This is a major shift. We certainly didn't want to rush it. We wanted to make sure that all the councilors' concerns were addressed to make sure that the public understands what's coming because this is going to apply to everybody."
Under the current policy, residents and businesses are responsible for upkeep and snow removal, and are required to pay for new sidewalks if the city condemns them as unsafe. Under the proposal from the Mayor’s office, the city would cover the cost of repair and snow removal pay for all sidewalk repairs and expansions for year one. After that, all property owners would pay phased-in fees over a six-year period. They top out at $100 a year for residential property owners and $300 for commercial. Dunham says both the administration and councilors were most concerned about residential property owners on a fixed income, so the plan now includes financial assistance.
"Whether that's a transiton to paying the fee, or whether that's property owners who are already dealing with a condemned sidewalk and the significant cost that that brings to them."
Still, councilor Bey wanted to hold off on a vote until January of next year. He says even if council approves the plan June 7th, other red tape and securing a contractor could take all summer, meaning construction couldn’t begin until the end of the season. Dunham says she realizes the clock is ticking.
"Our stance thus far has been let's just keep moving forward. We'd like to see if we can work on parallel tracks and deliver this service to let folks know what a municipal service looks like, and make that impact now rather than wait. But we'll see what happens. It's an ongoing conversation with the council."
She says they’ll be working on any additional changes to the program leading up to an expected vote early next month