Sidewalk details hammered out

GREENVILLE – After several regular and special Greenville City Council meetings discussing the proposed repair/replace sidewalk project, the issue once again dominated council’s meeting on Tuesday. After a special meeting on Thursday where Safety Service Director Curt Garrison pointed out certain items that needed to be decided, council seemed to be unsure of how to proceed and spent another 55-minutes hammering out the details.

Councilman John Hensley, who was absent from the special meeting, asked many of the same questions that were answered at the previous meeting. He argued there wasn’t anything in place to differentiate a good from a bad sidewalk. However, Councilman Jeff Whitaker pulled out the guidelines that were presented to council and the public who attended the public meeting in June at St. Clair Memorial Hall. According to Garrison, those guidelines were used to determine the sidewalk defects in phase one of the project.

With the revelation at the special meeting that the city’s ordinance regarding sidewalks had been repealed, it’s possible the guidelines would not be enforceable. Council suggested preparing legislation with the proposed guidelines.

Council President John Burkett continued to argue against a Resolution of Necessity at this time, but the administration claimed the legislation was necessary to be able to enforce their demands that property owners fix their sidewalks. Garrison and Mayor Steve Willman claimed the city needed to let residents know ahead of time what to expect if they didn’t fix their sidewalks. The administration was looking for council to establish a deadline for sidewalks to be fixed as well as length of assessment and fees associated with the assessment.

It wasn’t until the city law director, Eric Band, spoke and suggested the city should inform property owners of the deadline and information relating to a possible assessment that Burkett nodded in agreement. That got council moving and within minutes a plan was set in place.

The city is expected to set an Oct. 31, 2020 deadline for the phase of the project. If property owners haven’t fixed their sidewalks by then, the city will hire a contractor to finish the project in the spring of 2021. The property owner will have a minimum of 30 days to pay the balance or have the cost assessed to their property taxes. The assessment would be turned over to the county auditor in September 2021. The assessment would be for a period of five years and property owners would pay a one-time administrative fee not to exceed 5.5 percent as well as the three percent charged by the county. The city will also prepare legislation to waive the fee for a sidewalk permit, but a permit will still be required for the project.

In other business, council approved the Safety Committee report in regards to the Merchant House’s proposal for outdoor seating. The committee unanimously agreed the proposal did not cause a safety concern. The Merchant House is required to seek approval for their plan from the Planning & Zoning Commission.

By Ryan Berry

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