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The sidewalk on Manning Street was destroyed by over­growth of trees. COLLEGIAN | Allison Schuster

Most Hillsdale stu­dents are aware of the haz­ardous con­dition of the Manning Street side­walks that the City of Hillsdale and the land­lords both deny respon­si­bility for main­taining.

Many res­i­dents believe the crum­bling side­walks to be the result of the city’s neg­li­gence, but side­walks are the respon­si­bility of the home­owner to keep up to code, according to City Director Jake Hammel. While Manning Street is heavily pop­u­lated by stu­dents, the respon­si­bility lies in the hands of the land­lords.

The city plans on imple­menting a program in the spring that could pos­sibly involve repairing the Manning side­walks, easing the burden of repair on the land­lords.

As college senior and Manning Street renter Rose Schweizer said, “It’d be nice to go to class without tripping over and seeing the life flash before my eyes.”

As the result of over­grown tree roots com­bined with lack of upkeep, the con­dition of the sidewalk has been referred to as choppy and uneven by stu­dents.

“Since the roots have grown into it, it’s very moun­tainous,” Schweizer said. “There’s like a sug­gestion of a sidewalk.”

Hammel said the city pre­vi­ously had a sidewalk program in place for a few years that ended around 2012 due to lack of funding. The assessment program used involved the city acting as a bank, using taxes up front to fix side­walks a block at a time. There are current plans to restart the program this spring.

The city hasn’t selected the loca­tions for repair, but Hammel said that the focus is typ­i­cally ele­mentary school areas where there are lots of walkers and small children. Another deter­mining factor in choosing blocks is any future major street projects.

According to Hammel, side­walks are always included with these types of projects due to replacement of water pipes and other various alter­ations, so it’s eco­nomical to avoid repairing sidewalk blocks that are slated for con­struction.

Hammel said that the city tries to under­stand res­i­dents’ financial sit­u­ation while keeping in mind the welfare of the town.

“The average price is $1,500 to replace a sidewalk, which is just too much for many Hillsdale res­i­dents,” Hammel said. “So we try to only reg­ulate our authority when it’s nec­essary for safety.”

Hammel said that, despite the assis­tance program, the city of Hillsdale isn’t actually respon­sible to care for side­walks. Although side­walks are city property, it falls on the home­owner to maintain them.

“It’s like how you’re respon­sible to shovel your sidewalk,” Hammel said. “That’s main­taining it for yourself, even though we own it.”

Despite Hammel’s state­ments, there is still con­fusion.

“It has always been my under­standing that the city is respon­sible for this,” Miranda Parker, a Manning Street property landlord, said in an email. “The property owner is not allowed to tear up or add to the sidewalk or cement.”

Regardless of who is respon­sible, some stu­dents are already excited at the prospect of improved Manning walkways.

“I’m hardly awake in the morning and then having to dodge obstacles like the sidewalk makes it that much more dan­gerous,” Schweizer said. “I think everyone would really appre­ciate an actual sidewalk on Manning.”

  • Ellsworth_Toohey

    It’s unfor­tunate that the author appar­ently never owned a home in another city, hence the snow job.

    It’s the norm in cities to require side­walks be main­tained, and if the home­owner doesn’t do it, the city will (with higher cost labor) and put a special assessment on the property.

    So while it is indeed the home­owners respon­si­bility, the city needs to have the political backbone to swing the hammer.

    https://www.ferndalemi.gov/news/2017-sidewalk-assessments

    https://www.romi.gov/227/Sidewalk-Improvement-Program

  • Joseph Hendee

    The side­walks in the City of Hillsdale are the least of their problems.

  • Jen­nifer Melfi

    Great points by the other com­menters. I think this opens the door for a very con­ser­v­ative point to be made about how over­built and poorly main­tained our american infra­structure is due to the great sub­urban exper­iment http://www.strongtowns.org