Word regarding sidewalk repair may have slipped through the cracks

By Travis Gulbrandson

travis.gulbrandson@plaintalk.net

The Vermillion City Council has tabled resolution of necessity for sidewalk repairs because there may have been an issue regarding public notification.

However, residents can expect to see action to be taken early next year.

The council was expected to adopt the resolution for the southwest quadrant of the city at their regular meeting Monday, but several residents raised questions about publication of that night’s public hearing.

Concerns about notification by mail were also voiced, as the city did not use return receipt mail to inform affected residents of the resolution.

“Since there is perhaps an issue about notification, do you think it would be possible to take a week and publish it, and then come back just so we know that we’ve got our bases covered?” asked council member Kelsey Collier-Wise. “Because it would appear that if we didn’t use return receipt that we did need to publish it twice. Then we would know that we were not going to run into any problems down the road.”

Council members did move to table the resolution, but City Manager John Prescott said it could be readopted at the next regular meeting, which is scheduled for Dec. 16.

A public hearing date could then be set for Jan. 6, 2014, with advertisements running in the two intervening weeks, he said.

Monday’s public hearing came after the council members passed a resolution of necessity at their Nov. 4 meeting, which set the date for the public hearing.

City Engineer José Domínguez said the hearing date was published in the meeting minutes on Nov. 15.

Resolutions are only required to be advertised once, he said.

There also was some confusion regarding the Department of Engineering’s sidewalk repair policy, which was adopted in 2010.

Vermillion resident Steve Bell brought a copy of the repair code, in which two of its four points were identical.

“The language that I see here in particular points three and four – that is, Repair Code C and D – are exactly the same,” Bell said. “There is no distinction.”

Domínguez examined the document, and said it contained a “typo,” but added the codes are referred to correctly in other city documents.

The sidewalk inspection program that was adopted in 2010 was meant to bring deficient portions of sidewalks up to the proper standard. The program divided the city into four quadrants, and the southwest quadrant – south of National Street and west of Dakota Street – was inspected this year.

“During that inspection, staff looked at a couple of deficiencies mainly,” Domínguez said. “We looked at trippers and we looked at surface defects, being either holes in the sidewalk, cracks (and) if panels (are) cracked into four or more pieces. …

“Those sidewalks that we found were deficient were marked, and we have sent a letter to the property owners, and we’re asking them to fix them,” he said.

According to the council agenda memo, the property owners will be given until June 30, 2015, to “demonstrate they have the work under contract to be completed by the end of 2015.”

If the property owners fail to demonstrate that, or if the work has not been completed, the work will be completed by the city, the memo said.

The memo went on to say that some residents have already responded to the notification mailing, saying that they would prefer to have the city hire the contractor and assess them for repairs.

The cost of all repairs was estimated at $102,000, along with an administration fee of either eight percent or $50, whichever is greater.

“The assessment would be placed on the tax rolls and the property owner given two years at 10 percent interest to pay the cost,” the memo said. “The owner has the option to pay the entire assessment before it’s placed on the tax rolls without any interest accrual.”

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