Sidewalk repair deadline nears

By Jason Hawk -

If your sidewalk has been flagged as hazardous, the clock is ticking.

The first round of property owners required to make repairs under Amherst city council’s sidewalk rehabilitation plan have been notified by registered letter.

Some have already chosen to fix the walkways in front of their homes or businesses themselves or hire their own contractors.

For the rest, the city has tapped DL Smith Concrete & Design of Norwalk to pave up to 50,000 square feet of sidewalks starting July 15.

The company will charge $4.90 per square foot for concrete and labor, though more charges could accrue for additional fixes, such as removing a tree root that’s caused sidewalk upheaval, according to mayor Mark Costilow.

“We’re going to do our best to go around the trees whenever we can,” he said.

If the city’s contractor does your sidewalk, you’ll be assessed for the charges via your tax bill. There will be an appeals process — if you believe the bill has been improperly assessed, you’ll be able to make your case to city council.

Officials have been talking about fixing Amherst’s aging sidewalks for about two years in the name of public safety.

Early in the process, they identified nearly 300 addresses where sidewalks were upheaved, broken, or crumbling; the list climbed to 700 last summer.

“When we first started this… the engineers might have been a little over-aggressive about what needed fixed,” Costilow told the News-Times.

About 100 people called the building inspector’s office to voice objections after landing on the sidewalk repair list. On review, some addresses were removed while others stayed.

Amherst’s third ward is where many of the city’s oldest houses are located, as well as many of its oldest sidewalks. It’s a hot spot for this summer’s fixes, the mayor said.

DL Smith is expected to make repairs through September.

Earlier this year, council set aside $500,000 to pay the concrete company, which will start by paving some of the sidewalks that are in the worst condition.

At the time, Costilow predicted residents would be shocked by how few sidewalks that cash will cover: “This money is not going to go far,” he said.

About 20 percent of properties with safety problems will get repairs, he estimated.

Another round of letters will be sent next year in what is expected to be at least a three-year effort.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

By Jason Hawk