You wouldn’t think that the type of concrete poured for sidewalk squares would be such a thorny issue, but it has Riverside government officials tied in knots.
In 2014, the village board changed a longstanding law requiring sidewalks to be exposed-aggregate concrete — the concrete whose surface appears composed of tiny pebbles — and mandated that sidewalks be poured with standard, broom-finished concrete.
But on July 16, Village President Ben Sells — who in the past favored the switch to the less expensive broom-finished concrete — cast the deciding vote to reverse course again and go back to exposed aggregate.
While a new law needs to be passed to formalize the switch, trustees by a 3 to 2 margin gave the go ahead for Public Works Director Edward Bailey to request exposed aggregate as the material of choice for the village’s 2015 sidewalk replacement program.
Joining Sells in voting against broom-finished concrete were two trustees who won election in April, Michael Sedivy and Scott Lumsden. Joseph Ballerine and Ellen Hamilton voted to stay with broom-finished concrete, and add a linseed oil curing membrane to darken the new concrete.
Trustees Doug Pollock and Patricia Collins were absent from the July 16 meeting.
“I happen to live in a neighborhood … that had the brushed concrete put in and I still maintain it’s an eyesore,” said Sedivy. “In the character of the village, I think it’s worth the incremental cost to do it right.”
That incremental cost is about 40 percent for exposed aggregate over broom-finished concrete, according to the bid price being offered by Schroeder & Schroeder, the contractor that did sidewalk replacement in the village in 2014.
They have offered to hold their 2015 prices at 2014 levels in order to maintain the village’s business another year without having to bid again. It will cost the village $9.25 per lineal foot for exposed aggregate versus $6.25 per lineal foot for broom-finished concrete.
If the village were to replace the remaining defective 198,888 lineal feet of sidewalk, using exposed aggregate would cost the village $432,383 more than if it used broom-finished concrete.
Riverside has set aside $100,000 in its operating budget for sidewalk replacement in 2015.
Proponents of exposed aggregate also argued that because the village mandated the use of exposed aggregate from the 1970s until 2014, the use of broom-finished concrete would create a patchwork effect. Using exposed aggregate would create more uniformity.
But while the difference in the cost convinced Hamilton to vote in favor of broom-finished concrete for Riverside sidewalks, both she and Ballerine rejected the claim that the broom-finished concrete would create a patchwork effect. The patchwork has existed for years, they argued.
“The difference in price to me is paramount,” Hamilton said. “In front of my house are three different types of finishes, so I can’t get on this bandwagon for exposed aggregate.”
Ballerine rejected the notion that the majority of sidewalk squares in the village were exposed aggregate, saying broom-finished concrete was widely used in the past in Riverside.
The trouble, Ballerine contended was the stark white color of the broom-finished concrete that was poured last year. The finish will dull in time, but in order to avoid that white color right away, Ballerine suggested using the linseed oil curing agent. Adding that curing agent would only add 30 cents per lineal foot to the cost, which was far cheaper than exposed aggregate.
“I think the linseed oil gets us to the point where it dulls the bright white,” said Ballerine, who characterized the decision to go with exposed aggregate as “a 30-percent tax on the village and its residents.”
The village board is expected to vote on an ordinance again allowing the use of exposed aggregate for sidewalks at its meeting on Aug. 6.