Monday, June 20, 2016

Council OKs sidewalk law, delays vote on cost sharing

Council Members Dan Roller, Libby Warfield and Steven Craig
continued to discuss sidewalk issues after the meeting Monday.
The Midway City Council enacted a new sidewalk ordinance tonight but delayed a vote on its plan to split costs with owners of the sidewalks that the city deems most in need of repair.

After a discussion that lasted almost an hour, City Attorney Phil Moloney recommended the council not vote on the resolution because there had been "lots of concerns and suggestions."

The concerns were voiced by Council Member Libby Warfield, who said the plan was unfair to people who have inherited problems with sidewalks and done their best to fix them even though some are on fixed incomes.

"The people that have done the most ignoring of their problems . . . are the people you're going to reward with matching funds," Warfield said.

Moloney said the plan, which includes $27,000 in the new city budget for repairs, is for the safety and welfare of citizens. "The city is going to grade the worst sidewalks and address those first," he said.

Warfield said she didn't have an alternative to offer, but noted that the city has never enforced a 26-year-old ordinance that makes property owners who don't fix sidewalks subject to fines of $10 per day.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said the ordinance is "ridiculous" because people who can't afford to fix their sidewalks can't afford to pay a monthly fine of $300 either. The new ordinance makes the fine $25 to $250 per occurence and allows the city to make repairs and place a lien on the property to help recover its costs.

Warfield said the cost-sharing plan would benefit "very few people." Vandegrift, sounding incredulous, asked, "Very few people? What about the people who walk on the sidewalks?"

Council Member Steven Craig said he didn't know if the city could maintain the 50 percent cost-share but said it needs to start taking action on the sidewalk problem.

Council Member Dan Roller suggested early in the discussion that no one with property on the city's list of blighted properties be eligible for sidewalk cost-sharing. Craig and Council Member Bruce Southworth agreed.

Council Member Sarah Hicks said the overall plan could save the city money in the long run by avoiding a lawsuit judgment. Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher did not attend the meeting.

The sidewalk discussion began during the citizen comment period at the start of the meeting, when Shirley Wilson asked questions about the plan and said she didn't appreciate the Midway Messenger publishing a photo of her sidewalk with her address. She said the city has many worse sidewalks.

The photo showed a sidewalk badly buckled by a tree, creating a hazardous ledge. Wilson said she had been told that the city planted the tree, and "It's always been a nebulous thing as to whose responsibility this was."

Vandegrift said it's "pretty clear" that the property owner is responsible for the tree, and said the city is lucky that it hasn't been sued by someone who has tripped and fallen on such a sidewalk. "A lot of property owners don't want to keep these up," he said, so the plan was designed "to push these along."

Wilson said, "I feel like my concerns are reflective of a lot of concerns because there are a lot of similar situations." Vandegrift replied, "there are a lot of people who are really concerned about the condition of sidewalks."

For a PDF of the council's meeting packet, including the sidewalk ordinance and the resolution, click here.

In other business, the council approved a $1,000 donation to the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce, which had asked for $1,500, the amount it got last year; and approved an event permit for a 5K run to be held for charity on Saturday, Nov. 12.

The council also got reports on the speed monitor on East Stephens Street. On May 12, when the radar was operating in a way not apparent to motorists, 74 percent of the vehicles exceeded the 35 mph speed limit and 11 percent were timed going faster than 45 mph. On May 19, when the radar was operating and displaying speeds, 69 percent violated the limit and 10 percent were timed at more than 45 mph.

Assistant Versailles Police Chief Mike Murray said he asked his officers for more enforcement on the street, and the first night they stopped "nine or 10" motorists and issued "four or five" tickets.

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