Lancaster’s Department of Public Works is stepping up its efforts to get city sidewalks and curbs repaired and is asking City Council to help it ease the burden on property owners.
Under state and local law, the city’s individual landowners are liable for keeping the curbs and sidewalks that abut their homes and businesses in good condition. City Hall has authority to mandate fixes or replacements, which can cost thousands of dollars.
To help homeowners absorb the cost, the Public Works Department is field-testing a new sidewalk repair program, Director Stephen Campbell said. It gives homeowners the option of enrolling in an installment payment program or a low-interest loan program. Those who pay in full up front receive a 10% discount.
In limited cases, grants may be available to low-income homeowners who can’t afford the work, Campbell said.
Property owners can find a contractor themselves, or have the city handle the repair through the firm it has retained, Doug Lamb Construction. If they choose the city’s contractor, permit fees are waived and the work is guaranteed.
On Tuesday, City Council will consider providing $750,000 to set up a revolving fund for the loan component of the program. It would be tapped up front for payments to contractors; as homeowners repay their loans, it would be replenished, keeping funds available for fresh loans in future. (Update: At its meeting, City Council approved the $750,00 appropriation.)
The money would be moved from the Enterprise Loan fund, a city small-business loan program with capital of $2.8 million.
This year, the Public Works Department has sent out nearly 800 notices, Campbell said, ordering repair work costing an estimated $1.16 million, or an average of nearly $1,500 per notice.
Most are going to properties in areas where underground utilities are being replaced and streets are being repaved, Campbell said.
The number of notices is a significant jump for the city, which is working through a backlog caused by the pandemic.
Some property owners are annoyed, and apprehensive that they’ll be asked to do the work over again if utility and street repair projects aren’t done in sync. That won’t happen, Campbell promised.