Despite a cost-sharing program available since July 1, residents see little improvement in the city’s sidewalks. The Sidewalk Replacement Cost Sharing Program, provides financial incentive for homeowners, but not business owners, to replace old sidewalks, and a $50,000 budget, yet only $10,000 has been allocated to date. Of the 50 people who have inquired, only 10 have followed through with an application. Councilman Steve Stycos, who introduced the program, believes the project faces several challenges. For starters, he thinks the reimbursement is too low. The city will pay $3 per square foot for cement and $2 per square foot for asphalt, with the possibility of additional help for qualified low-income residents who meet the necessary guidelines. A 50 square foot replacement could end up costing the resident $700-$800, with only $150 reimbursed by the city.
“I would like to see the city pay the entire cost,” he said. Stycos and Kenneth R. Mason, P.E., Director of Public Works, also believe its difficult to find contractors to do the work. Residents are responsible for hiring contractor to do the job who meets all of the guidelines in the ordinance. For instance, the contractor must be bonded, carry the proper insurance, pay prevailing wages, and be accepted by the city. ”One problem” said Mason, “is that many people want to replace a 10 x 6 square, or 60 square feet, which is not worth it to the contractor. When he does a bigger job, the cost is less. Also, they don’t want to do the work in the winter.” Mason estimated that 10 percent of the city’s sidewalks should be replaced. He said when the City conducted a pavement management study, a decision was made to focus on streets and not include the sidewalks, and so a precise figure is not available. Most of the damage is caused by city trees, planted long ago in the grassy strip between the sidewalk and road, according to Mason. The roots of the big oaks and maples have caused the sidewalks to heave.
And there is at least one unexplained juxtaposition of sidewalk sections in front of Austin’s Salon and Day Spa at 1858 Broad Street in Edgewood where one section of sidewalk is a good three inches above the rest of the walk. Bonnie Pacific, who owns and operates the salon, said the condition has existed for years. On more than one occasion she has rushed outside her shop to help a fallen pedestrian, bringing them into the salon to treat their bruises with ice packs and cuts with towels.
“My clients know it and they still trip over it,” she said. “You would think they would paint it.” Councilman Stycos said he hopes that more can be done to improve the program. “We’re looking at a machine being used in Newport that actually grinds down the raised sidewalks.” That proposal was discussed at Monday nights Public Works Committee meeting. Jeffrey Barone, Constituent Affairs, reported he met with the sole company that does the grinding and will give a more complete report at the upcoming Council meeting, but thinks the money is better spent on the cost sharing program. Mason said the grinding process will not be effective for the sidewalks that have heaved because of tree roots, because grinding will only remove trip hazards of up to 1 1/2-inch. Most of the city’s sidewalks were built during the depression, according to Stycos. They were built well, lasting over eighty years, he said. For a copy of the entire ordinance, residents can access the City of Cranston web page, click on Hot Topics, and go to Sidewalk Replacement Cost Share Program.