Sidewalk program moving forward

Chad Frey
The Kansan
More people at home, and walking in their neighborhoods, has led to more calls to city hall to report trip hazards on sidewalks.

For those on the receiving end of the 100 sidewalk hazard complaints — and subsequent violations written by the city environmental office — the time to get a rebate for repairs done in 2020 has arrived. 

Applications for the city’s new Sidewalk Repair Rebate Program are now available for residents who received sidewalk violation notices in 2020 and 2021.

The city commission approved a new assistance program — a program dead since 2009 — after a sizeable increase in the number of complaints. 

In 2020, there were 100 complaints of sidewalks in disrepair investigated by the City of Newton —  the three previous years totaled 57 complaints. 

"With COVID-19 we have a lot of people at home, they are wanting to get out of the house and they are walking and utilizing sidewalks," said Suzanne Loomis, director of public works for the City of Newton. "... When people are stumbling upon a a sidewalk that is in disrepair, they are calling the engineering office, the environmental officer. We are inspecting those and sending out notices."

In February, the commission set aside $150,000 ($75,000 for 2020 and $75,000 for 2021) through 2021 from a capital reserve account to start a rebate/reimbursement program. Those funds were received from special assessment payments from a suspended sidewalk repair program in 2007 through 2009.

Some funds set aside Tuesday will be retroactive — those cited in 2020 for sidewalk improvements can apply for funds. Each property owner that is approved for the program is eligible to a city-issued rebate of up to $3.50 per square foot of sidewalk repaired or replaced with a maximum of  $800. A corner lot with a sidewalk along both streets could be eligible for up to $1,600.

Only property owners who receive official notice from the city in 2020 and 2021 to make repairs to their sidewalks are eligible for the program. The rebates will be available on a first-come, first-served basis only until the budgeted funds are exhausted.

Under state statute, it’s the responsibility of the adjacent property owner to keep public sidewalks in good repair and free of trip hazards. The city generally enforces sidewalk violations when a resident submits a complaint about a particular area.

The application and more information is available online at www.newtonkansas.com/sidewalks or at the third-floor reception desk at City Hall. For more information, contact the Office of Revitalization and Preservation at 316-284-6001 or hp@newtonkansas.com.