Residents asked to pay the bill for new city sidewalks

MILFORD, Del. – Milford is looking to fix up their city one sidewalk at a time. The problem is, at least for homeowners, that if they city has their way homeowners will be the ones to personally foot the bill.

Milford City Council has discussed the issue of sidewalks extensively for months. The city argues that because of an ordinance in place since the 1800s that places the responsibility for taking care of sidewalks on the property owner. The city is now sending out letters to residents who have sidewalks in disrepair.

They city gives those with faulty sidewalks three options. To repair the sidewalks themselves, to ask the city to repair them and pay immediately, or have the city repair them and pay off the balance over a 60 month period, interest free.

The city has offered to take off $2 per square foot of sidewalk if they pay back the city within 30 days.

Officials say this is an effort improve safety and walk-ability throughout the city.

“This will be something that hopefully will benefit every property owner in many different ways,” said city manager Eric Norenberg.

One councilman, Todd Culotta, was the lone man to disagree with this decision.

“We want to make this a good, livable, walk-able, attractive city. But we don’t want to do it with an iron fist.”

The city makes the case that these sidewalks pose safety and legal risk.

“We’re trying to be proactive and get ahead of any sort of trip or fall injury and any claim that might come back to either the resident or the city,” Norenberg said.

For low income homeowners, if they are unable to pay for the repairs a lien will be put on their homes, and will reimburse the city when their home is sold.

“A lien is one way that can be deferred until the property sells. That may be convenient for some people as a last resort,” Norenberg said.

Residents we spoke with simply say they do not feel this decision by the city is fair, adding that the city continues to change what their offer is to help with homeowners. In recent weeks, the city had said residents could have the city do repairs, but would be charged the cost, plus ten percent.

Others say that ordinance from the 1800’s is outdated, and that some homeowners have to deal with this, while many do not have sidewalks to worry about.

Culotta tells us that in that ordinance there is a vague line regarding city help for those who do not meet a threshold of income, but there are no criteria for how to meet that. The councilman says he was in contact with the Milford mayor and they will be discussing what they can do at a council meeting within the next two weeks.

However, Mr. Culotta voted Yes to proceed with the sidewalk program on July 22nd. That was the last vote by City Council to award the contract, and it was unanimous.

Categories: Delaware, Local News