By DAVID GREEN
Three Fayette residents spoke critically of a sidewalk proposal at the September village council meeting Wednesday.
Dave Lichtenwald criticized a proposed sidewalk assessment that would levy an annual fee of $20 for a sidewalk repair fund and $10 for a tree removal fund. This would create a fund to help with future work.
Lichtenwald noted that he already spent $4,500 to replace sidewalks at two properties and he doesn’t think it’s right for those who already made repairs to pay again.
Lichtenwald asked why the sidewalk repair program was changed after it was started.
Mayor Ruth Marlatt, who is a member of the Sidewalk Review Board discussing the proposal, said that some issues were encountered during the first phase of the program—repairing walks along Main and Fayette streets—and the changes would help address them. Council members heard about the proposal at the committee of the whole meeting Sept. 14.
Lichtenwald said he’s spoken with several people who are opposed to the proposal.
“I don’t think it’s fair. Why change it when you’ve got something started?” he asked.
Marlatt said she doesn’t expect the proposal to become law as it’s currently written. She stated that it will be “tweaked” before it’s brought to council for a vote.
Audience member Bob Becker said he replaced walks at his property without complaint, but he doesn’t want to be assessed for someone else’s walk.
The sidewalk committee discussed exempting those who have already made repairs.
Village administrator Amy Metz noted that Lichtenwald and Becker both replaced their walks when only spot repair was needed. Their efforts greatly improve the appearance of the neighborhood, she said.
Former council member and interim mayor Craig Rower said he was opposed to the sidewalk repair plan when it was approved by council and now he’s upset that it’s going to be halted after some residents complied.
Residents on Main and Fayette streets were forced to make repairs, he said, and now there’s talk of suspending it. Rower spoke of a possible class action lawsuit that would repay residents for money spent on sidewalk repair—“for every inch of concrete that’s been put down in this town.” He said this would result in a 10 percent hit to the village budget.
Rower said the program was initially justified for the safety of children. Is that no longer a concern? he asked.
Marlatt asked where Rower heard that the program would be indefinitely suspended, and Rower said, “That’s what I’m hearing.”
“I’ve never heard it said that it will be suspended indefinitely,” Marlatt said about the rumor.
Marlatt said the program will continue in regard to determining which walks are next for repair, but property owners will have about two years to complete the work. She expects that some people will act on their own to make repairs.
“I wish we didn’t have to talk about it here,” said councilor Rodney Kessler. “I wish every home owner would take responsibility for their own property and do it without us having to do a thing.”
Council member Julia Ruger agreed.
“It’s part of our ordinance, for you as a home owner, to maintain your sidewalk,” Ruger said. “I am so sick and tired of people complaining.”
“If you want to live in a nice community,” Kessler added, “you have to take care of it.”
The village applied in the past for Safe Routes to School funding for sidewalk work, but was not awarded money.