ASHLAND – In response to a complaint from a local citizen to the Federal Highway Administration about the condition of sidewalks in Ashland, the City of Ashland has developed a plan to repair or replace sidewalks in the city.

On June 30, the city outlined the plan in a presentation that was presented during a digital town hall meeting. The city also set up a live viewing session at the Ashland Public Library. Questions from the public were submitted during the presentation.

Council Member Bruce Wischmann outlined the city’s comprehensive sidewalk inspection and repair program during the presentation. The program was developed after the city entered into an informal settlement agreement with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) requiring the city to address issues brought up by the complaint, which was filed in November 2017.

Ashland is also undertaking this program to decrease liability claims that come about because of tripping hazards created by faulty or damaged sidewalks, Wischmann said. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also requires the city to enforce rules to ensure that sidewalks and curb ramps are accessible to everyone.

“This has been a pressing issue,” said Wischmann.

The city originally planned to present the program to the public in the spring, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced a delay, Wischmann said.

The city contracted Precision Concrete Cutting, a franchised company that specializes in repairing sidewalks by cutting away trip hazards, to evaluate the entire city and create an inventory of sidewalks and curb ramps, as required by the agreement. City Administrator Jessica Quady said they chose this company because they have used them in the past and were satisfied with the work that was performed.

Precision Concrete Cutting identified areas where sidewalks need to be repaired or replaced and developed a plan for correcting the sidewalk deficiencies.

As a City of the Second Class, Ashland can require a property owner to make the repairs or replace damaged sidewalk or the city can do the work and then assess the property owner, according to Nebraska statute. The city will allow the property owner three years to pay the assessment and will charge 7.5% interest.

The city will pay for all curb ramps that need to be repaired or replaced. Wischmann said the cost of replacing a ADA-compliant ramp on a corner is about $1,000. There are 12 ADA ramps alone in the first area that is being focused on, he added.

When an area of sidewalk has been determined to require repair or to be replaced, the property owner is given a deadline to notify the city of their plans. There is also a timeline set in place for the work to be done.

Precision Concrete Cutting will provide the property owner with a bid for repair or replacement, but the property owner can find their own contractor, according to the presentation given by Wischmann. The city has included a list of contractors on its website, but property owners are not limited to using those contractors, he added.

Precision Concrete Cutting uses a patented method to cut the sections of the sidewalk down so they are level. Other methods to fix these issues include mudjacking or foamjacking, Wischmann said.

The sidewalk program divided the city into five sections. Work will be done in a phased timeline starting in 2020 and then moving on to the next section in three-year increments, Wischmann said. The final phase is expected to be completed in 2034. Property owners in each section will be notified by mail when the program moves into their area.

“So we’re looking at quite a few years over a long time, but we wanted to go zone by zone,” Wischmann said.

The first section is the area that was identified in the original complaint. The section includes the area between Furnas and Birch streets and 12th and 18th streets, including Silver Street between Highway 6 and 12th Street. This area was stipulated by the informal settlement agreement with the FHWA. Work will be done between 2020 and 2022.

Section 2 includes Furnas to Birch streets and 18th to 30th streets and is scheduled for 2023 to 2025.

In 2026, work is scheduled to begin on the third section, which is between Highway 6 and Highway 66 (West Park Highway) and Ninth and Fourth streets.

Section 4 will include Furnas to Birch streets and 30th to 32nd streets and is to begin in 2029 and finish in 2031.

The final section is between Highway 66 (West Park Highway) and Valley View Court or the subsection that has been annexed by this time. The time frame for completion is 2032 to 2034.

If a property owner does not have a sidewalk in place at this time, the program would not require them to put in a sidewalk, Wischmann said.

If a property owner disputes the city’s findings that they need to repair or replace their sidewalks, they can call City Hall to discuss the issue, Quady said. The city will also consider extenuating circumstances, including hardships created by the current COVID-19 pandemic, Wischmann said.

“We will deal with that on a case by case basis,” he added.

Information on the sidewalk program can be found at www.ashland-ne.com.

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