At Monday night’s City Commission meeting, no agenda item drew more public comment than the new citywide Sidewalk Improvement Program. Property owners expressed concerns on a variety of issues — from how long it takes to complete the work to how to get an exemption from having to install a new sidewalk where none exists.
Residents who live in the Sidewalk Improvement Program target area bounded by N. Main Street, 13 Mile Road, Campbell Road, 12 Mile Road, Stephenson, and E. Farnum Avenue may have already noticed work being done, especially to sidewalks adjacent to city-owned properties such as parks.
Providing and maintaining continuous sidewalks that link neighborhoods, schools and community facilities is a primary goal of the city’s Master Plan and the Royal Oak Non-Motorized Transportation Plan recommendations, according to Interim City Engineer Matt Callahan.
Key elements of the Sidewalk Improvement Program are the maintenance of existing sidewalks and the installation of new sidewalks where they do not exist, such as along the south side of Girard Avenue, adjacent to Red Run Golf Club.
“The program also helps reduce the number of slip and fall claims against the city,” Callahan said.
Last May, when the Engineering Department first went to the City Commission asking for approval to implement a six-year citywide sidewalk improvement program, Callahan provided a table showing sidewalk claims and legal expenses paid dating back to 1987. The table shows the city made the largest payout in 2007, when it paid $384,000 in claims and more than $223,000 in legal costs.
Sidewalk inspection criteria
Representatives from the Engineering Department have already inspected the 2012 target area and marked sidewalks for replacement using the following criteria:
- differential sidewalk elevation is greater than half-inch
- sidewalk is cracked
- more than 25 percent of the sidewalk has spalling or flaking, is pitted or popped
- sidewalk shows signs of ponding water
- sidewalk has excessive sloping, more than 1-inch per foot
- sidewalk does not comply with 5-foot wide city standard
In addition to replacing deficient sidewalks, part of the sidewalk replace plan is to install new sidewalks adjacent to properties that do not have 5-foot wide concrete sidewalks.
The Engineering Department does not flag sidewalks for cosmetic reasons, only for potential safety problems. “A broken sidewalk doesn’t heal itself,” Callahan said. “It only gets worse.”
For property owners who do not have sidewalks and wish to appeal the installation of new sidewalks, there is a form available at the City Clerk’s office in City Hall. Property owners may also write a letter to the city clerk in lieu of filling out a form. The City Commission will make the determination of whether any appeal is granted.
As the City Commission has dictated that the program to replace deficient sidewalks is a necessity, there is no appeal process for existing sidewalks that do not meet city standards. As a matter of public record, property owners who disagree with the program and/or special assessment billing should put their concerns in writing and send those letters to the Engineering Department.
For residents or businesses with concerns regarding existing sidewalk adjacent to their property that have been marked to replace, call the Engineering Department at 248-246-3260 to schedule and appointment when a representative will meet at the property to discuss individual situations.
Owners are billed for the affected sidewalks adjacent to their property at $86 per flag. Because this is a special assessment project, property owners have 60 days to pay the bill and avoid interest.
Property owners who do not pay within 60 days, have six years to pay for the improvements with interest. It is expected that the interest rate obtained for the Special Assessment bond will be less than 6 percent.
No-interest loans are available for property owners with low income. Contact the Housing Department at 248-246-3130 for more information.