Committee Continues Debate Over Sidewalk Policy

OSWEGO, NY – Members of the Administrative Services Committee continued a discussion on the city’s sidewalk repair and replacement policy.

After a previous discussion weeks ago, councilors decided to get together and come up with some proposals.

They are proposing going back to a flag system where a certain number (10) of flags (sidewalk sections) would be delegated to each councilor, Council President Eric VanBuren said.

Up to four flags can be done in front a property; any thing above that would have to be requested and the DPW commissioner would make an estimate of the cost and it would be the responsibility of the homeowner, he added.

Councilor Shawn Walker pointed out there is one place in his ward where 10 flags need to be replaced.

“I could use my whole allotment right there,” he said. “I know it’s a tough situation, but it’s city sidewalks, they must be repaired.”

“We’re not going to do them all overnight, obviously,” Councilor Pat McLaughlin said. “So, you could figure a yearly process in that area.”

The councilors should be allowed to figure out what they need for their wards, Walker said.

“If there’s one really bad spot, I’d use up my allotment right there,” he said.

There are some areas where a lot of work needs to be done, agreed Councilor Ron Kaplewicz.

Ten flags, in any of the wards, isn’t nearly enough, he added.

Another 35 flags would be allocated for city owned sidewalks, VanBuren said.

“I understand that we have other flags to do … but if we’re not doing our worst flags, we’re not doing service to the taxpayers,” he said. “If you’ve got a cracked flag, that’s one thing. But if you’ve got one that’s heaved and somebody can hurt themselves on it – those are the ones we really need to prioritize. We need to be addressing those worst case scenarios first.”

Tens flags is just a starting point for discussion purposes, Councilor McLaughlin explained.

“We can increase it,” he said.

Fixing some of the curbs “is just as important as the sidewalks,” Councilor Fran Enwright said. “I have some homes that their side lawns are being washed away by the rain because the curbing is pretty bad there,” he said.

Kaplewicz said the city needs to put together a schedule for maintenance of its infrastructure – roads as well as sidewalks, he said, describing Route 104 West at the forks of the road as “an embarrassment.”

“Not just for this year. But, for years to come, so that we have a regular routine maintenance schedule,” he said.

Some possible finance assistance might come from grant funding.

Paul Stewart, director of the Oswego Renaissance Association said, “The ORA does have grants for neighborhood improvement, sidewalks are a part of that.”

In areas where the sidewalks are bad, he encourages groups of (at least five) homeowners to get together and apply for grant.

“That is a resource that is available. They are competitive, you can’t fund everything. But that’s something that is something that can be a part of the beautification project for residents. Please be aware of that,” he told the committee.

In some cases, up to $3,000 can be awarded.

Councilor Walker said he’d like to see it go back to the way it was years ago when the councilors were able to get 20 or more flags replaced each year.

The committee took no action Monday night. Discussion will continue at a later date.