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Some property owners could get help with sidewalk costs

January 13, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

Last September, the Chambersburg Borough Council issued a policy statement giving property owners three years to repair or replace substandard sidewalks and curbs. On Monday night, the council discussed ways some residents might get help with paying the bill.

The cost of new or repaired curbs and sidewalks is the responsibility of the property owners whose homes or businesses have street frontage, but one example discussed at the meeting showed it can be an expensive proposition.

Roland Avenue between Edgar and Scotland avenues is scheduled for reconstruction in 2005 or 2006. There are no curbs or sidewalks on the avenue now, but Borough Engineer Robert Wagner estimated the cost of installing them for about two dozen property owners will be approximately $224,000.

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The figure Wagner used in the estimate was $35 per linear foot for either sidewalks or curbs.

Carl Alleman, who lives along the avenue, said he has 300 feet or more of footage, but agreed the sidewalk needs to be built because of pedestrian traffic from nearby Faust Junior High School.

During Monday's work session, the council indicated a committee would be formed to examine alternatives for those who cannot afford to repair their curbs and sidewalks or to deal with those who refuse to pay. Council President William F. McLaughlin said a committee will be formed to examine the alternatives and make recommendations.

Borough Manager Eric Oyer said he has received inquiries from property owners who are concerned about having to pay for repairs. The standards set in a 2001 sidewalk and curb ordinance requires sections to be fixed if they have substantial holes, cracks, are crumbling or are vertically out of alignment.

Council members suggested some funding could be allocated from Community Development Block Grant funds, which are to be used to benefit low- and moderate-income individuals and neighborhoods.

"With a large portion of the borough in low- and moderate-income housing, I don't think you'd have to worry about spending the money," Oyer said. He added that the repairs required by the ordinance could cost millions of dollars.

Councilman Carl Helman suggested the federal funds could be loaned at a low interest to qualified property owners. A similar program is funded through the block grant program for housing rehabilitation.

One limitation on the amount of any grant or loan could be the cost of any individual property's bill for repairs, according to Oyer. Any project using $2,000 or more in federal funds falls under the prevailing wage act, which would increase the cost of repairs or installation.

Helman said a loan under the $2,000 limit would "get a large percentage of the people over the hump."

An option for those who refuse to pay for installation or repairs is a lien against the property, Oyer said. The three-year time frame to make repairs went into effect Jan. 1, but the borough can, in the meantime, continue to order repairs to be made upon receiving complaints or by employees observing violations of the standards.

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