In 2009, the city of Nevada started its sidewalk program. Since that time, Building and Zoning Administrator Shawn Cole estimates that between 2,500 and 3,000 4x4-foot squares of existing sidewalk have been replaced with new concrete.
“I was directed by our city administrator at the time to create a program to look at and repair bad existing sidewalks,” said Cole, who has been with the city 18 years.
Cole said the program hasn’t yet come full circle. “We’ve averaged (replacing) around 200 sidewalk squares a summer,” he said. The program has about four to five years left before it will have hit all areas of town that have sidewalks. Then, Cole said, the cycle will begin again, as this is a perpetual program.
The next time around, however, there shouldn’t be as many squares needing repairs, so the program won’t take as long to go full cycle, nor will it be as costly to the city and to residents, who are assessed for half the cost of the sidewalk repairs that abut their property.
By code, property owners that have city sidewalks abutting their property are responsible for the maintenance of those sidewalks. When the program first started, Cole said he got more negative feedback from property owners than he does now.
“No one likes to have to pay for something,” he said. But, the way the city’s program is set up, it’s a better deal for the property owner than requiring them to do it on their own. With the Nevada Sidewalk Program, the city shares in the cost of maintaining the sidewalks, paying half the bill.
The average cost to homeowners with sidewalks in front of their home has been between $300 and $400, Cole said. Most property owners pay that fee to the city in one or more payments during the sidewalk season, which runs from the beginning of June to the end of October.
The highest property he’s had to charge for sidewalk repair was a bill of $2,800 on a corner lot with sidewalks in need of repair much of the way around. In a case like this, Cole said, the city can work with the property owner to come up with a payment plan through their taxes. “We could stretch that out over 10 years if needed,” he said.
The full cost of repairing a sidewalk square is about $80 to $100. The city has many squares of sidewalk that it solely owns, and it puts in a number of its own squares each season as part of the project.
The sidewalk program’s yearly budget is up to $20,000. Cole clicks on a folder on his computer to pull up one of the previous year’s outcomes on cost. It shows the city paid between $13,000 and $14,000 for that year. By keeping the program budgeted at $20,000 a year — or about 200 residential sidewalk squares a year — it helps keep the program under the bonding levels imposed by the state. “That way, smaller companies that are better suited to do this kind of work (and who don’t normally do projects that require bonding) can do it,” he said.
Milam Concrete of Nevada has done the vast majority of the sidewalk repair work in Nevada. Cole said it’s a workable job for them, as they can do it in between other things as long as it’s done between early June and late October.
Cole has already been out to evaluate sidewalks that need repair this coming sidewalk season. If you saw him walking around with a metal rod, looking at each square of sidewalk recently, he was determining which existing sidewalks need repair.
This year, the program is looking at sidewalks primarily on the west side of town, along Lincolnway, K Avenue, and First, Second and Third Streets.
“Back when we first started this program, the first two years, we didn’t have a GPS unit, so we did all the marking by paper,” Cole said. “Now it’s all done using the GPS unit.”
Looking back to those first couple years, Cole said the project started in the area around the elementary school, as it was a high-use area for pedestrians. From there, the project has taken in several blocks a year as it covers all of the city’s existing sidewalk areas, which are most heavily concentrated between the two railroad tracks. Cole said the Indian Creek areas will be where the first full program eventually ends.
Has the program been worth doing? Cole believes it has. Even though most people who have to pay the price of repairing sidewalks give it “sullen acceptance,” he said, it’s a good thing to have good sidewalks. Even in the winter, good sidewalks help deter puddling and ice buildup. But in the summer, they really show their worth.
“If you go out and walk them prior to us repairing them, you could twist an ankle or bungle up your feet,” Cole said. “When we’re done, it’s a smooth, nice surface and people are using them.”