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Sidewalk repairs need addressed in South Pittsburg

Posted on Friday, March 8, 2024 at 8:00 am

LACIE SILVA

Editor

South Pittsburg resident Thomas Green raised concerns of the desperately needed sidewalk repairs across the city generating discourse and a consensus to review the construction undertaking.

During the citizen comments section of the meeting, Green addressed the board to raise concerns about the sidewalks near his home, particularly those leading to the nearby elementary school where children walk daily. He highlighted that the sidewalk directly in front of his residence has been significantly raised due to tree roots. Additionally, he mentioned that despite investing personal funds in attempting to address the issue, he has not been successful in achieving a permanent solution to the damage. Green emphasized his concern about potential lawsuits against the city in the event of someone getting injured due to the sidewalk condition.

Mayor Samantha Rector acknowledged that similar sidewalk issues have been observed throughout the city. She clarified that the root cause of these problems is the presence of old trees with extensive root systems. She also pointed out that fixing the sidewalk alone would not provide a long-term solution.

Vice Mayor Matt Stone suggested that the board explore infrastructure grants to implement extensive sidewalks throughout the entire city. In response, Mayor Rector noted that unless the trees were removed, the same sidewalk issues would likely reoccur. Vice Mayor Stone acknowledged the concern and proposed the possibility of using a tree species that would not pose the same problems. However, Commissioners Allison Buchanan and Cheryl Kellerman emphasized the importance of preserving the existing trees, stating that removing and replacing them would be a lengthy process. After some further discussion, Commissioner Kellerman reiterated the stance that they cannot simply remove all the trees. Mayor Rector then asked City Administrator Gene Vess for suggestions on what could be done in this situation.

Vess reiterated previous statements, emphasizing that in his opinion, the only solution would be to remove the trees and extract all the roots, followed by redoing the sidewalks. Kellerman proposed an alternative approach of navigating around the paths of the tree roots.

To summarize and clarify the need for a decision Attorney William Gouger Jr. chimed in. Attorney Gouger clarified that when a citizen raises an issue or requests a solution, it signifies awareness of the problem, which obliges the city to address it in some manner to mitigate liability. He emphasized that if the city fails to take action after receiving a public request for resolution, it could be held accountable for any subsequent injuries sustained by individuals. He endorsed Vice Mayor Stone’s suggestion to explore grants for infrastructure improvements, acknowledging that while it would be a significant endeavor, it would ultimately benefit the entire city.

The discussion also touched on adhering to handicap accessibility guidelines, initially brought up by Commissioner Kellerman and reiterated by audience member Carolyn Millhiser. They proposed having the sidewalks navigate around the trees. However, Mayor Rector highlighted that implementing this approach at Green’s residence would result in the sidewalk either bordering or crossing his front porch. Alternatively, if placed in the opposite direction, it would disrupt traffic lanes.

Vess presented another option they were considering: building up the already raised parts of the sidewalk like a bridge. He explained that this process would need to comply with ADA regulations. He emphasized to the board that none of the information was concrete but rather an idea being explored to avoid extensive tree removals.

Commissioner Buchanan inquired about an estimate for fixing the sidewalks. Vess clarified that it would not be a conventional bridge but a raised walkway. He mentioned that some of the preparation work could be done by the city, while the rest would cost approximately $4 to $5 per square foot. He based this estimate on a concrete company he knows that does similar work, with the city purchasing concrete at an approximate value of $175 per yard. An audience member suggested seeking a grant to fund the expenses, which Attorney Gouger supported. Vess emphasized the need for a plan for all sidewalks throughout the city to prevent community discontent.

Mayor Rector reassured Green that they would investigate the necessary steps, and the board agreed. However, no vote was taken regarding this topic at the February meeting. Stay tuned for updates on this matter as more information becomes available.

The Marion Tribune – March 7, 2024