A program to help people repair or install sidewalks near their homes in Seymour isn’t going exactly how some city officials had envisioned.
That’s because instead of residential areas, most of the projects have been completed in industrial or commercial areas, said council member John Reinhart.
The program was started by the Board of Public Works and Safety a couple of months ago and gives property owners the chance to pay for the cost of the concrete, while the city provides the labor through the Department of Public Works.
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“We need to revisit the sidewalk project,” Reinhart said. “The impression I had when this was all presented was we were going to be looking at residential neighborhoods, older neighborhoods, where the people really couldn’t afford to repair the sidewalks that are crumbling.”
Instead, Reinhart said the city has patched sidewalks near the high school and put in sidewalks in the North Tipton Street area on the city’s east side.
“That’s nice, and they look good,” he said. “But I think by doing those kind of projects we are competing with private industry here. We’re competing with Cooper and Kleber concrete, and I don’t think that it’s our intent to take business away from them.”
Reinhart suggested the city set up guidelines for restricting areas the sidewalk repair program is allowed.
“And maybe even put some income guidelines on it,” he added.
Right now, the program is a “free for all,” Mayor Craig Luedeman said.
“It’s just who ever submits a request,” he said.
City attorney Rodney Farrow said the program was intended to be a trial and the city can tweak it before it starts again in the spring. The program wraps up this month because colder weather will be setting in soon.
Council member Lloyd Hudson said he had talked to a couple of residents who were excited about getting their sidewalks repaired.
Those are the people the program should be serving, instead of businesses, Reinhart said.
“It should be the lower income areas, the older neighborhoods where tree roots are growing up and knocking the sidewalks up,” he said. “But those aren’t the kind of places we’re doing right now. We’re doing jobs that should have probably been bid out to contractors.”
Council member Jim Rebber, who also sits on the board of works, said the idea behind the program was to help make the city look better.
He said it’s been an ongoing battle to improve curbing and sidewalks because it’s the property owner’s responsibility to maintain them, not the city’s.
“I’m embarrassed with how our city looks,” Rebber said. “We can’t get anyone to fix anything.”
He agreed the program should be limited to residential areas.
Reinhart said he still thinks the original idea behind the program is good.
“But we need to draw some lines because we’re putting labor in and doing some things that these folks should have hired contractors to do,” he said. “We’re taking business away from the private sector and that wasn’t our intent, but that’s what’s happened.”