By Bob Uphues
Riverside's village board is likely to approve spending about $20,000 in 2014 for a comprehensive inspection of the village's sidewalks with an eye to crafting a long-term plan for replacing them.
Trustees earlier this month appeared open to a proposal by Public Works Director Edward Bailey to hire a firm to do an independent assessment of the roughly 60 miles of sidewalks in the village and provide a cost estimate for replacing sections that pose a risk to pedestrians.
"It's widely acknowledged that the village's sidewalks are in a significant state of disrepair," Bailey told the Landmark. "I've inspected many of them and people report the defects. There isn't any doubt."
The company hired to do saw-cutting of defective sidewalk squares, Safe Step, pitched the inspection proposal to the village and performed a sample inspection of 1,000 lineal feet of sidewalk, according to Bailey. The company reportedly found 87 "reportable conditions" in that section — almost half the total. Reportable conditions range from broken concrete to trip hazards of a half-inch or more.
Not all hazards require a sidewalk square to be replaced. In the case of a smaller trip hazard, the square can be saw-cut to eliminate the hazard.
Bailey said he has a list of 1,000 squares in the village that are defective, but that represents just a fraction of the total length of sidewalk in Riverside. In recent years, the village has budgeted $50,000 for sidewalk replacement — roughly 175 to 200 squares per year (the village also does saw-cutting and some curb replacement with those funds) — a figure that Village President Ben Sells says is far too low.
"We've neglected sidewalks for so long, and I think they are as important as streets," Sells said.
Riverside's preliminary budget for 2014 calls for $100,000 to be set aside for sidewalk replacement. That figure would also include the cost for completing the sidewalk survey, according to Village Manager Peter Scalera.
While Safe Step is a possibility for completing the survey, Bailey has been directed to determine whether there are other companies capable of doing a sidewalk survey and seek proposals from them.
The survey would be completed in 2014 with a methodical sidewalk replacement plan, implemented in 2015.
Bailey said information from the survey can be entered into the village's GIS system, which Riverside uses to record the location of everything from trees to sewer lines.
"If we have an inventory completed and in the GIS, it will be easier for [Bailey] to have seasonal employees at public works do follow-up inspections," Scalera told the board on Oct. 3.
Meanwhile, the village would also have a firm idea of where problem sidewalk squares are located and begin to map out a strategy for getting them fixed.
"At this point we're speculating on the condition of all sidewalks in the village," said Bailey. "This way we'll have a complete inventory, so we know what we have."
The village could be divided into quadrants, for example, which would be addressed on a rotating basis. The survey will also give the village a better picture of exactly what amount needs to be budgeted to repair sidewalks annually.
"Until we know exactly what needs to be repaired, I don't know if we can give the board a firm prediction of what it would take to get the walks in compliance," said Scalera.