City begins program to fix sidewalks

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Whitefish is establishing a sidewalk cost sharing program that would help reimburse homeowners for repairing the city’s sidewalks.

City Council last week approved the ordinance creating the program.

Public Works Director Craig Workman said there are roughly 41 miles of sidewalk in Whitefish, but the responsibility of sidewalk construction and repair falls on abutting property owners.

“In an effort to encourage willingness to repair and maintain sidewalks, the city has had an annual budget for quite some time to assist property owners. However, we have not had a resolution allowing the city to reimburse property owners for doing this, so that’s exactly what this ordinance does,” Workman told Council.

A cost-sharing program between the city and property owners would provide an opportunity to expedite sidewalk repairs or replacement of eligible sidewalks by covering some of the financial burden.

The city’s financial participation will be limited to removal and replacement of only the sidewalk parallel to the public street, while repair of damaged irrigation systems, replacement of sod or landscaping, leveling of soil or other repairs that don’t result from the sidewalk replacement project aren’t eligible for reimbursement.

Walkways that connect the sidewalk to the house, as well as the carriage walk, which leads from the sidewalk to the curb, are not eligible for the program and are the responsibility of the home owner.

Participating homeowners will have to sign a formal agreement with the city for sidewalks that meet the criteria for participation, the cost will be dependent on the contract price at the time the agreement is submitted and full payment from the property owner for their share of the replacement will be due upon completion.

The city’s FY2019 budget includes $25,000 for sidewalk repairs, and the same amount is proposed in the FY2020 budget. With a proposed property owner cost share of 50 percent, up to $50,000 of sidewalk repairs could be possible with the program.

The city’s Connect Whitefish Bike and Pedestrian Master plan adopted in 2017 outlines a path to create a network of bicycle and pedestrian routes in the city and a network of well-maintained sidewalks is considered a key to the goal.

During the June 17 meeting, Council also:

• Approved an ordinance amending the zoning code for a variety of housekeeping amendments in order to fix errors and inconsistencies in the code.

• Approved a resolution adopting the Whitefish Legacy Homes Program administration procedures, which creates the technical procedures for city staff and the Whitefish Housing Authority to administer the program. City Council previously adopted the ordinance creating the Legacy Homes Program aimed at creating affordable workforce housing through inlcusionary zoning.

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