City sidewalk repairs in the works
By Gordon Dritschilo
City sidewalks are about to get more attention than they’ve had in recent years.
“Since October, we’ve been going through the city and we’ve inventoried most of the sidewalk segments,” associate city engineer Nate Stansberry said. “All the data has been collected. I think probably in the next month or two we will have a list internally.”
Stansberry said the Department of Public Works is now deciding how to prioritize sidewalk work, for which $70,000 a year is allocated in the city budget.
“I think we’re going to look at composite scoring,” he said. “We’re going to look at their proximity to schools, proximity to businesses, the road they’re on. We’re going to put all that into the scoring as well as the condition.”
This city will look at sidewalks that do not connect to anything and ask the adjacent homeowners if they want them removed. At the same time, officials will look for areas that should have sidewalks but don’t.
“Everyone’s personal philosophy is probably that every street should have a sidewalk, but we have many streets in this city that don’t have sidewalks,” Stansberry said.
One such stretch is the area outside the West Street Cemetery. Rutland Redevelopment Authority executive director Brennan Duffy said he has applied for a state grant of $28,477 to put a sidewalk there. He said the grant would require a 50 percent local match, which he expected would largely be in-kind labor performed by DPW.
“We are, at this point, looking at about 950 feet of new sidewalk,” he said. “That’ll go from Pine Street all the way to the bridge, past the cemetery, past the Our Mart site and hopefully to the bike path. The idea behind this was to connect a number of the investments that have been made on that side of town.”
Those investments include the Vermont Farmers Food Center and the new veterans’ center.
Duffy said he also intends to plant six trees in front of the cemetery and is looking into having the fence removed.
City sidewalks could also benefit from fines collected under the proposed vacant property ordinance, under review in the Charter and Ordinance Committee.
While committee chairman William Notte said last month that he liked the idea of putting the fines in a dedicated fund because he did not want to see them spent on “things like sidewalks,” he clarified this week that sidewalks were a perfectly legitimate use for the money, so long as those sidewalks were near the vacant properties in question.
“I’m against the idea of collecting any sort of penalties and putting them in the general fund,” Notte said. “What I don’t want this to look like is the Aldermen looking for a tax grab. ... Don’t penalize property owners on Pine Street, grab that money and use it to fix sidewalks a mile away. ... We need to use any money collected from blighted properties in the immediate vicinity of the houses that were fined.”