The Syracuse City charter makes property owners responsible for the maintenance and repair of sidewalks in front of their homes. But you need only walk a block or two to realize the sidewalk ordinance is loosely enforced. Some are broken down, others are overgrown with grass and many are made of asphalt instead of the required concrete.
So B renda Bolliver was surprised when she received condemnation notice from the city ordering her to replace the sidewalk at her Avery Avenue home by September 1. "I almost had a stroke." Bolliver told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon.
S yracuse has a sidewalk assessment program through the Department of Public Works . When DPW inspectors decide a sidewalk must be replaced. Property owners can replace it themselves, hire a contractor, or the city replace it for them and add the cost onto their property tax bills over the next 10 years at 7 percent annual interest.
T he city's quote d Bolliver $10,866 to replace her sidewalk and add the charge to her tax bill over 10 years. "I think it's price gouging. I'm not sure it's all going to the contractor they've hired to do this work. It's an issue where the city needs money and this is where they can get it." Bolliver said.
B renda Bolliver solicited two estimates from private contractors to replace the 160 foot long sidewalk on her corner lot. One estimate came in at $6,500 while the other totaled $5,500 or nearly half what the city would charge.
B olliver says the city is also requiring that this sidewalk be widened to 5 feet which would require she dig up some raised gardens she installed years ago.
She thinks her sidewalk was singled out by the DPW because she has a $600.00 claim pending against the city. Bolliver says a DPW backhoe last year damaged a stone platform where she used to place her trash cans. "I made a complaint and they're saying, you want us to pay 600 dollars? Look at what we're going to make you pay." Bolliver said.
A spokesperson for Mayor Stephanie Miner says because of Bolliver's claim against the city, "She can not comment on this specific situation."
The Mayor's office did release the following overview of its sidewalk assessment program:
"The City of Syracuse maintains an active sidewalk maintenance program throughout all neighborhoods. The program, with a budget of over a million dollars, gives residents different ways to repair old sidewalks.
"The sidewalk program is complaint driven. Residents can anonymously call the Department of Public Works to report sidewalks in disrepair. Homeowners are also welcome to contact the Department of Public Works and ask for an estimate.
"Once a sidewalk has been condemned or an owner has asked for it to be replaced, the property owner is given a notice explaining their options. One option is for the City of Syracuse to utilize a contractor and do the repair. The City's contract is currently held by Ballard construction. This can either be paid for up front or it can be placed directly on the property taxes of the homeowner for a period of ten years. The second option is for the property owner to hire an independent contractor to perform the work. That contractor will then be required to pull the appropriate permits and build the sidewalk to the specifications outlined by the City of Syracuse.
"In 2013, the City of Syracuse 220 sidewalks were repaired through this program. 78 of them, or 35%, were the result of estimates given by the city at the request of the homeowner. 65% of repairs, a total of 142, were in response to condemnations."