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Tucker eyes city fund for sidewalk repairs

A plan to have the city assume the responsibility and expense for repairing dilapidated sidewalks is expected to be presented to the Common Council within the next 30 days.

Mayor Michael W. Tucker said last week his plan is to set aside about $100,000 from the annual state aid check the city receives for highway maintenance and use it to repair sidewalks.

The City Charter says that sidewalk maintenance is the responsibility of the owner of the property the sidewalk borders. Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said it might be necessary to change the charter to make Tucker's plan legal.

Tucker said the city received about $500,000 in state aid last year under the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program, or "CHIPS" for short. He said the city didn't spend it all, even though it repaved about 20 streets, so he feels that $100,000 could be set aside this year for sidewalks.

"It's a legitimate expense for the funds," he said. "It would take several years to work through the city."

Tucker said having the city hire a contractor to repair sidewalks is justified because most sidewalks are located within the city's right of way. Also, many sidewalks are heaved by the roots of city-owned trees.

However, Tucker's plan drew lukewarm reactions from two veteran aldermen.

"At the present time, I'd go for a 50-50 split [of the cost]," said Alderman Patrick W. Schrader, D-4th Ward. "I can name a bunch of locations where there are sidewalks in rough shape, and they weren't caused by the trees."

"Give me some numbers first, and then I'll give you an opinion," said Council President John Lombardi III, R-5th Ward. "I'm a contractor, and I know what those guys get. Do I want them doing my sidewalk? No. I'll do it myself."

But the expense has prevented many property owners from repairing their sidewalks. Very few have been done in recent years, and in many cases the projects were done by some of the city's wealthier and more influential attorneys.

Tucker said, "I'm sure some people will be rubbed the wrong way" if the city decides to start paying for work they had to fund on their own.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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