A crum­bling sidewalk. Wiki­media Commons | Courtesy



It is not only the roads in the City of Hillsdale that are cracking, but many side­walks, too.

As Hillsdale looks to invest in its infra­structure, including its nearly $2.8 million investment in roads, the city also is planning to restart its sidewalk program. After Hillsdale ended the ini­tiative in 2011, City Manager David Mackie announced at the April 2 city council meeting that the city is looking to budget about $50,000 to assist res­i­dents with the cost of replacing their side­walks now that the city is more finan­cially stable.

“It’s in the city’s best interest to have side­walks looking nice,” Mayor Adam Stockford said. “It’s a small thing, but it’s sym­bolic of some­thing bigger. It’s a sure sign to show res­i­dents: This city is back on track.”

If the city council approves the line item in the budget before June, the city would pay 25 percent of the costs to replace a block of sidewalk from its general fund, and the res­i­dents would pay for the remaining 75 percent. For those unable to make the costs upfront, the city also could cover the costs and have the home­owners pay their share in their taxes across the next 10 years.

“We want as many res­i­dents to take advantage of this as pos­sible,” Stockford said. “If you live in the city, we’ll make it happen.”

The program replaces side­walks by block to take advantage of economies of scale, said Jake Hammel, the director of the Public Ser­vices Department. The program requires a special assessment of the sidewalk, a public notice, and the par­tic­i­pation of all the property owners on the block.

“Just a flag of sidewalk here or there is quite expensive,” Hammel said. “The cost is much more affordable if you do the entire block at once.”

City Coun­cilman Bruce Sharp, who has advo­cated for the return of the sidewalk program, added that side­walks in good con­dition reduce lia­bility risks since home­owners, not the city, own the pathways, and they increase homesale prices.

Hammel also noted replacing the side­walks would make the paths com­pliant with the American Dis­abil­ities Act. Many side­walks in the city cur­rently are not, which is one of the reasons why the Public Ser­vices Department requires home­owners obtain a permit and have an inspection when replacing their sidewalk.

“We want everyone to be safe, and we cer­tainly want to be handicap friendly,” Hammel said.

Between 1997 and 2011, the sidewalk program helped to replace about one side of 20 – 30 blocks.

Hammel added that for the past few years, the city did have a sidewalk program in which the city would remove old sidewalk at no cost. The property owner paid for the new con­crete slabs them­selves. This “plan B” ini­tiative should still be available in par­ticular cases, should the city approve the sidewalk program.

As Hillsdale is a “tree city,” according to City Coun­cilman Bruce Sharp, who has advo­cated for the return of the sidewalk program, growing tree roots over time often push up against the sidewalk’s con­crete slabs, causing them to crack and become trip hazards. Sharp said he hopes the program will provide for a safer, friendlier com­munity.

“If you have nice side­walks and roads, you have nice neigh­bor­hoods,” he said. “People will go out, and they’ll enjoy it. I will walk and talk with the people in my ward. My wife and I will take our dog out and get some ice cream, but there are so many side­walks that need to be repaired in town.”

Although the city council has until June to pass the budget, Stockford said he is con­fident the sidewalk program will receive approval.

Sharp said he looks forward to an even more walkable Hillsdale.

“Exercise is good for the soul,” he said. “I’d love to be able to get out and walk more easily, get to know what’s hap­pening in Hillsdale.”