Oswego Councilors Wrestle With Sidewalk Liability

OSWEGO, NY – Who is responsible for sidewalk repair was discussed for more than 10 minutes at Monday night’s Planning and Development Committee. In the end, councilors left the door open for further discussion; but, took no action.

Third Ward Councilor Mike Todd said the city should have a clear policy regarding who is responsible for repairing sidewalks.

“I’m getting calls about sidewalks all the time,” he said. “I just need to know whose responsibility; are we fixing sidewalks or not fixing sidewalks?”

The charter says the city has the discretion, according to DPW Commissioner Mike Smith.

Seventh Ward Councilor Ron Kaplewicz pointed out that in the past constituents would make a request to their councilor and they’d refer it to the DPW.

“Then depending on time and severity, they’d try to handle them. Normally, you’d get more requests in your ward than could possibly be done by the DPW. You have to prioritize them because you don’t have the people or resources,” he said, adding that it is becoming a liability issue and the city needs a policy to deal with it.

As it stands now, “the DPW shall be authorized to require the owner of the property … to construct or repair a sidewalk … if within a reasonable time, the owner fails to install or repair a sidewalk, the DPW may install or repair them and the cost shall be assessed and collected in the same manner as other local assessments”

“I’d like some guidance at this point. What’s the DPW commissioner allowed to do for us? Is he authorized to fix them and then bill people? What do we do? We have people calling us saying they want their sidewalks fixed,” Todd said. “Do I tell them they’ve got to fix them? Do I tell them the DPW will fix them and we’ll bill them?”

“If we don’t fix them, who is liable for the sidewalks?” First Ward Councilor Fran Enwright asked. “If our charter says it’s up to the homeowner, are they not responsible?”

“So, fix the charter. Let’s get real,” a resident replied.

The matter will return to the committee level for future discussion.


  1. Well, I thought it was city property because when I regrettably bought my house here in town I was told rather frankly that the city even owns half my front porch but it was “grandfathered” in under some “clause” when it was built long before I was born so I guess they need to fix “my” two broken windows on it too should the sidewalks ever need work!

  2. After our city taxes went up another 30%, it is clearly the citizens responsibilty to repair the side walk……….if the city had to repair it, i would expect another 50% tax increase.

  3. And Oh , By The Way – you now need to make them 5′ wide to comply with the diabilities act. Just ask the property owners in Syracuse. I guess you have to be able to have two wheel chairs be able to get past each other. Good luck in the winter with that. LOL

  4. IF we have to repair them ourselves, I think there should be some ‘tax’ incentive to do it. As one other poster said, we’ve had our taxes raised many times since the City automatically did this for us (1990s?)…so it’d be nice if we got something for doing it. What’s annoying, of course, is that that City ‘owns’ our front lawns, including the trees that get barbarically and savagely ‘trimmed’ on many occasions occasionally killing them, but they don’t have ‘responsibility’ for the sidewalks that are between our homes and the street.

    BTW: Really, disabilities act? How come there are still many, many locations on the Westside where there are still ‘steps’ leading from the sidewalks down to the streets???

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