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Sidewalk repairs should begin soon

(12/27) The Town of Emmitsburg will soon begin making temporary repairs on the sections of sidewalk that have been the most damaged by trees.

In a series of motions during the Dec. 18 town meeting, the commissioners laid out a plan to try to accomplish about $250,000 worth of repairs in a reasonable amount of time, yet without causing either tax hikes or breaking the town's budget.

"There's probably $250,000 to $300,000 worth of work total so it's obviously going to be more than one year," Emmitsburg Mayor James Hoover said. "It probably needs to be phased in."

The initial town plan was to have a contractor remove broken sidewalk, but Commissioner Clifford Sweeney suggested having town staff remove the concrete and apply a cold patch. This would be a temporary fix to make the dangerous areas of sidewalk safer.

The proposed town plan also called for the project being done over three years in three phases. Town Manager David Haller told the commissioners that each phase would cost around $75,000. The project could be done in smaller chunks, but it would also take longer.

"If you do 10 trees a year, you knock it off in six or seven years," Commissioner William O'Neil Jr. said.

However, the longer it takes to complete the project, the longer the town leaves itself open to liability issues should someone be hurt because of sidewalks damaged by trees.

"We're liable for the repairs because they should have been effectuated properly and they were not," O'Neil said.

The faster the project is completed, the larger the cost to the town.

"I think you would have to lean all other CIP (capital improvement plan) matters down or we'd have to borrow money," Haller said.

Hoover suggested that road maintenance and park equipment line items in the CIP could be trimmed to free up money to pay for the tree removal and replacement project. Board President Chris Staiger also suggested that some of the needed funds could come from increased property tax revenues the town tends to receive each year because increasing property assessments.

"This is more than a 10-year issue for these sidewalks," Hoover said. "Sooner or later we're going to have to face it."

The commissioners decided to have town staff make cold patch repairs to the worst sections of sidewalk now and then next fiscal year (beginning July 1, 2007) start with the actual repair of the sidewalks. The commissioners allocated $50,000, at this time, for that use. If the allocation remains at that amount, it would take about five years to fully repair the tree-damaged sidewalks.

Haller will return to the commissioners with a budget transfer once it is decided where the funds will come from.

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