NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk Democrats are considering a push for an ordinance change to allow the city to take over maintenance of city sidewalks. In the meantime, there is a push for a study to see how much it would cost to repair the sidewalks in conjunction with paving programs.
Councilman David Watts (D-District A) brought up the topic at Tuesday’s Public Works Committee meeting. Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord attempted to discourage the initiative as being too costly. Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) indicated support for looking into sidewalk repair, while Republicans were mute until finally agreeing to consider a study.
The council is dominated 8-7 by the Republican caucus. That includes Kimmel, who could be considered a swing vote.
Alvord initially told Watts that fixing all of the city’s 140 miles of sidewalks would cost “tens of millions of dollars.”
He said the city would have to rewrite its ordinance. Watts said he knew that.
“We should look at that ordinance and repairing these sidewalks because there’s a lot of seniors and indigent people who can’t afford to make those repairs and we have people using those sidewalks who can be hurt,” Watts said. “So I think we need to make some sort of cost analysis.”
“It’s more expensive to do a linear foot of sidewalk than it is to do a linear foot of asphalt paving on the road,” Alvord said.
Kimmel said a plan could be developed, similar to the paving plan, in which $5 million has been spent on paving each year for the past six years. The is a five-year plan in place for paving going forward. There is also a 10-year plan in place, beyond the documented capital budget plans, Alvord said.
“Let’s say I could write a check right now for sidewalk repair,” Kimmel said. “Do we have any kind of plan?”
The answer was no. Alvord said the city would need to hire an outside firm to do a study.
“The sidewalk thing is something I just really never understood about Norwalk, especially when it comes to snow,” Kimmel said. “People are just confused, what’s going to be enforced, what their obligations are, and then you see the snowplows. They have no place — when it’s a deep snow, when it’s a real storm — they have no place to plow the stuff but back onto the sidewalk, which on occasion has already been shoveled by the homeowner.”
Alvord said that last bit was true.
“The challenge we have with streets and sidewalks is our streets started out as Indian pony paths and the houses encroached up on them and everything else,” Alvord said. “So we can’t just go straighten everything out and do the ideal thing on every street.”
Watts asked if anyone would object to a study. Councilman Jerry Petrini (R-District D) and Kimmel asked Alvord if he could get a ballpark figure for them to consider.
No formal process, Alvord said.
“You don’t go out and get prices for this… you get a RFQ, Request for Qualifications,” he said. “ … Once you select the most qualified firm then you negotiate the price.”
“I know, but I could pick up the phone myself tomorrow and start calling a bunch of cities and end up at the end of the day with some idea,” Kimmel said.
It was agreed that a proposal would be developed to put together a request to fund such a study and put it in the capital budget request, which is due by Jan. 16, according to Alvord.
Petrini said the study should separate residential from commercial properties.
Committee Chairman David McCarthy (R-District E) agreed.
“We’re not going to put the $100 million in (the capital budget request) for the sidewalks but if the study is there it is a good placeholder.”
Mayor Harry Rilling promised in his campaign to look at repairing Norwalk sidewalks.
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