Alderman Thomas F. Grzebinski II proposed Wednesday that residents who want trees removed in front of their homes should have to sign a contract pledging to pay for the removal and the replacement of the sidewalk.
Sidewalks heaved by tree roots are common throughout the city, but city law requires residents to pay the cost of replacing any damaged sidewalk, even when the damage results from a tree in the city right of way. The result is that few sidewalks are replaced.
Grzebinski's idea is that a resident may request removal of a city tree, and the city will pledge to do so within two weeks. The resident then must commit to replace the affected sidewalk within three months.
If the resident doesn't do so, the city would replace the sidewalk and send the property owner the bill. Also, the resident must reimburse the city for the tree removal, or the charge would be placed on the following year's tax bill.
Mayor Michael W. Tucker said he would support setting aside up to $25,000 a year from the highway aid the city receives from Albany for use in repairing sidewalks.
"Some folks don't have the wherewithal to fix them. That's just a fact. That's why there's a need for a sidewalk program," Tucker said.
But the mayor also suggested that the city might seek a contract with Rubberform Recycled Products, a Michigan Street company that has a contract to manufacture rubber sidewalks from ground-up tires.
"I don't think there's as big a question as there used to be about how they'd stand up in this climate," Tucker said. Rubbersidewalks, the California company that has signed Rubberform as its East Coast manufacturer, has sold its product to several cold-weather cities, although most of its customers are in California.
On another topic, Alderman Patrick W. Schrader announced that the Fire Board will revisit the ever-contentious issue of whether to shift Fire Department dispatching to the Niagara County Sheriff's Office.
Schrader said a meeting has been called for 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, with communications experts from the county and from the city Police Department squaring off. It is a showdown that has been held several times before, and so far the city uniformed services have been able to prevent the transfer of the dispatching chores to the county.
Also, the Council will vote next week on a two-year renewal of its contract to provide sewer service to some parts of the Town of Lockport. The renewal would maintain the town's annual payment of $596,855 to the city.
Also Wednesday, Tucker disclosed that the field of eight prospective consultants for a report on the future of the Main Street parking ramp has been narrowed to four.
The contenders are Greenman-Pedersen of Buffalo, which bid $182,430 for the contract; C&S Cos. of Syracuse, $185,000; FRA of Henrietta, $237,700; and Stantec Consulting Services of Rochester, $304,000.
Qualifications as well as price will be considered when a committee of city staffers interviews the contenders May 2.