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Council considers creating sidewalk assistance program

file photo

Of the Keizertimes

A program to help homeowners pay for sidewalk repair and installation is in the works.

There’s been no official decision to create it, but Keizer city councilors asked staff at a work session earlier this month to create a framework for either a city-wide or smaller local improvement districts (LID) to do the work.

A pilot program with residents of Hornet Court would be launched under the council’s proposal.

Some issues still to shake out include the size of the sidewalks being installed, what contribution the city’s street fund might make and how often the opportunity would be offered.

City Manager Chris Eppley and Kevin Watson, assistant to the city manager, touted a local improvement district as an option that could lower costs via economy of scale and possibly a lower interest rate than a homeowner could get otherwise. The idea could make sense for everyone involved since homeowners are responsible for maintaining their share of the sidewalk.

“If the economies of scale are correct, then you can move forward with it,” Watson said.

Models discussed included very localized LIDs, where neighborhoods would request by a two-thirds majority to create one; or cycling city-wide LIDs where any homeowner would join.

Like any public project, the sidewalk projects would be bid out per public contracting standards.

One issue would be collection; LIDs must be assessed separately from property taxes. And Councilor Richard Walsh pointed out some may not want to participate in the LID.

“Some people have sidewalks in front of their homes that they paid for that are perfectly good,” Walsh said.

Eppley described the process as “a tool for people to take advantage of if they wish to use that program.”

Another issue was the extent to which sidewalks upgrades and repairs would have to comply with modern standards per the Americans with Disabilities Act. Any new sidewalk or replacement must be upgraded to five feet wide; replacing only a panel or two would not necessarily trigger that requirement, said Bill Lawyer, public works superintendent.

And some may not even want a sidewalk in their neighborhood.

“Unless it’s part of a land use decision there’s no requirement to put in a sidewalk,” said City Attorney Shannon Johnson. “But if the sidewalk’s there you have to maintain it.”
This may not sit well with some, warned City Councilor David McKane.

“When you talk about sidewalks that don’t exist … not that sidewalks are a bad thing, but I think it’s going to open up a whole can of worms,” McKane said.

Councilor Cathy Clark said improving sidewalks in the Palma Ceia neighborhood where she lives “would improve our property value and definitely improve safety and accessibility.”
But McKane opined many homeowners may be able to get a better home equity loan interest rate than the city could on an LID loan.