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Council approves sidewalk program

The Pagosa Springs Town Council approved a plan on Tuesday night that will provide property owners in the U.S. 160 corridor in town a 50-percent match to pay for sidewalk maintenance and construction — but only for a limited time.

By statute, the town can identify areas of sidewalk that require maintenance or replacement (being deemed safety hazards), but can also identify areas of town streets that require new sidewalks to tie in gaps between existing sidewalks.

The 2011 town budget contains a $40,000 item for sidewalk maintenance and construction. On Tuesday, council heard a motion to leverage those funds to provide a 50-percent match to assist property owners with the expense of maintaining, replacing or constructing sidewalks.

The motion stated that, “Town staff will identify portions of sidewalk for repair, replacement or installation along the Hwy. 160 corridor on May 09, 2011.”

The motion added that, “Town Streets department will supply demo and removal services (at no charge) of identified portions requiring repair/replacement.”

Council member Jerry Jackson expressed some concerns about the motion, however, given that the program is not voluntary and that, given the state of the economy, could put some property owners in a tough financial position.

Town building inspector James Dickhoff responded to Jackson, saying the town has the ability to mandate repairs or construction of sidewalks. Dickhoff added that the cost of replacing or building sidewalks runs about $5 per square foot.

Jackson asked how town staff would determine where repairs or construction would be needed, with Dickhoff responding that safety concerns (cracks in a sidewalk that make tripping a likelihood) or where pedestrian safety is compromised due to gaps in existing sidewalk pathways would be a guide.

“I would like to see the criteria lean towards safety, especially in this economy,” Jackson said.

As far as determining where sidewalk projects would be identified in 2011, council member Stan Holt said, “We’d actually be starting with a worst-case scenario.”

“You’re right,” Dickhoff added, “we will need to prioritize.”

Seemingly impressed with the terms of the program, council passed the motion unanimously, with Jackson offering the motion and trustee Don Volger offering a second.

“I think this is an innovative approach,” Volger said before the vote. “I support it.”

With town staff making a survey of sidewalk issues early next week, property owners could see notices regarding their sidewalks within the next two weeks.

The town will also list properties requiring sidewalk replacement or construction at Town Hall, as well as post public notices twice in The SUN.

However, if property owners refuse to repair, replace or construct sidewalks within the time period allotted by the town, those property owners could miss out on the 50-percent funding match offered by the town. At that point, the town could, by statute, perform the work itself, then bill the property owner through property taxes.

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