Brookfield will scrap its 50-50 sidewalk replacement program in favor of one funded entirely by the village and focused each year on a specific sector of the town.
Public Works Superintendent Dan Kaup unveiled the new proposal to the village board and received its blessing on Feb. 11.
“We’re trying to be more proactive, make sure we take care of our core infrastructure and try to manage the trip hazards,” said Kaup.
Brookfield budgets $50,000 per year to repair sidewalks and sections of deteriorated curb. Traditionally, however, the village has relied on requests from residents who want the sidewalks in front of their homes replaced. Each homeowner pays a portion of the cost to replace the sidewalk squares.
But while the homeowner contribution helps offset the cost somewhat, it pays far less than 50 percent of the total expense and doesn’t necessarily address sidewalk squares in most need of replacement.
The village does not have a master list of the worst sidewalk sections, so it’s entirely dependent on residents to come forward and make requests.
“The problem is it’s not a uniform way of replacing a piece of public infrastructure we’re responsible for,” said Kaup, who has led the public works department since last August.
Many homeowners who didn’t feel it was fair for them to bear part of the expense for replacing sidewalks would simply not bother calling, even if their sidewalks were crumbling.
As a result, Brookfield has suffered a number of accidents each year where people have gotten injured tripping over uneven sidewalks. In 2012 alone, said Kaup, there were at least 10 such reports. Not all led to lawsuits, but some of them did, resulting in insurance payouts by the village.
Kaup’s plan is to have his staff visually inspect all of the sidewalks in the village to come up with a master list of problem spots and then divide the village into four zones. Each year, said Kaup, the village would spend $50,000 to replace sidewalk squares most in need of replacement in one of the four zones.
The worst zone is central Brookfield, roughly between Eight Corners and Ogden Avenue, comprising the oldest area of the village. Some sidewalks in that part of the village date back to the 1920s.
The $50,000 budgeted for the work should allow the village to replace between 400 and 500 sidewalk squares in a given sector, according to Kaup.
“If we were to go out and hit the most damaged sidewalks every year, it’s our hope that the bad trip hazards would be taken care of through the first round,” said Kaup.
Asked if he had considered sidewalk grinding — where trip hazards can be eliminated by physically grinding down sidewalks that have heaved slightly — Kaup said it’s not part of the program yet, but could be in the future after the worst sections of sidewalk are replaced.
Kaup said the village will be sending out a request for proposals packet to contractors this week and expects to announce the winning bid in April. He expects to get more interest from contractors than, for example, last year when just one concrete contractor bid on the sidewalk replacement program.
Contractors aren’t thrilled at the prospect of hop-scotching all over the village to replace a square here and another there. By concentrating the work in one area, it’ll be more attractive to bidders and could result in more competitive pricing.
“If we’re proactive on this, I think we’ll be saving money,” said Kaup.