Aurora -- On Oct. 10, City Council approved an ordinance allowing the city to enter into a contract to complete sidewalk improvements associated with the STAR (sidewalk transitional assistance repair) program.
According to the ordinance, the administration is authorized to enter into a no-bid contract with Turle Construction Inc. for the sum of $54,350, which will come from the city's capital improvement fund.
In the 6-1 vote, Council member Jim Vaca was the lone dissenter and Council member Scott Wolfe abstained. Council member John Kudley Jr. was not at the meeting.
Vaca said he was unhappy that the program was changed midway through from one where the city agreed to split the cost of repairing sidewalks evenly with residents to one where homeowners needed to pay only $150 for updates while the city paid the balance.
"No matter what the footage is, the city picks up the balance," he said.
Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin said 44 households are participating in the program this year.
She said the program's timeframe led to it becoming a $150 flat fee for residents.
In May, she said residents each paid a $150 down payment on the work. The project was bid in August, but the bid came in too high.
As a result, she said Service Director John Trew sought bids from 12 firms, receiving one back that was acceptable.
Because of the time it took to get the quotes, Womer Benjamin said there isn't time to seek additional money from residents before work would need to begin to complete the project by winter.
"By the time we'd gone through the bid process, we were really pushing the time line," she explained.
"This is a pilot program to encourage people to apply to work with the city to have their sidewalks repaired," she said.
"The city had a fund that was set aside in the budget to put toward these sidewalk repairs. The real benefit to the residents is that the city bid them all together."
Womer Benjamin said the city will not end up paying the entire cost of the project. Just over $6,600 will be covered by the $150 fees residents paid in May.
"It"s a good program, and since we had the money for the program, we wanted to take care of these sidewalks. Next year, if we do it, it might in fact change to the point where it is officially a 50/50 or whatever percentage program."
Sidewalks are normally the homeowners' responsibility to maintain.
According to a letter from Kudley read during Council's Oct. 10 meeting, the city could be held liable if injuries occur.
"The law director has indicated the city puts itself at a liability if the sidewalks will go unrepaired," stated Kudley's letter.
Vaca said he doesn't "believe the story that the city is liable if someone gets hurt."
He suggested encumbering the $50,000 that will be used for the sidewalk repair program and offering STAR next year. He noted about 40 residents have signed on to the program.
According to the ordinance, the project will include a limestone base and concrete sidewalk. Seeding and mulching also is included in the cost of the contract.
In an earlier interview, the mayor said some of the city's sidewalks have been heaved up by roots of nearby trees.
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