Special to The Gardner News
A joint meeting of the Streets, Sidewalks, and Stormwater Advisory Committee (SSSAC) and the ADA Advisory Committee was held at city hall on July 20.
“There’s a lot of areas where there’s some overlap between our committees, and it’s good for us to have a collaboration,” said Steve Shute, ADA committee member and city council president. He said he thought the two committees should hold joint meetings several times a year.
The committees were updated by Brian Faust, public works director, on how the city is evaluating and repairing the sidewalks.
“We’re going through every section of downtown and then working our way out, categorizing all the sidewalks and what condition they are in,” said Faust.
Faust said that much of the work in 2015 was funded by grants, and the downtown area sidewalks were roughly 25 percent completed.
The city pays for sidewalks on public property, but private home owners are responsible for the sidewalks in front of their property.
It was asked if a property owner had owned the property before the ordinance was established could be considered “grandfathered in” and exempt. Lee Moore, city council and SSSAC Member, noted that it is not an ordinance but rather state law.
Moore pulled up KSA Ch.12; Art.18-08, which says: “It shall be the duty of the owner of the abutting property to keep the sidewalk in repair.”
Moore also pointed out this statute became law in 1941, so it was unlikely anyone would be grandfathered in.
Although state law dictates property owners are liable for sidewalk maintenance expense, collecting those funds can be a challenge for municipalities.
It was mentioned that lack of awareness is part of the problem. Often homeowners do not realize they are responsible for the sidewalks. Ideas to boost awareness included adding FYI reminders on utility bills, issuing a press release and creating a page on the city website addressing the topic.
“I think that we can’t hold public accessibility hostage to a private homeowners refusal (or capability) to fix their sidewalk, “ said Shute.
The city does have the option to proceed with sidewalk repairs and put a lien on the properties that don’t pay afterwards.
It was acknowledged that sidewalk repair is not a trivial expense, and there will be residents, such as elderly and fixed income, who cannot afford to pay. There was a lot of member participation in discussion of this issue and how such situations could be handled fairly.
Shute summed up the task before the committees:
“How do we come up with a plan as a group here, a recommendation to council, to rectify these issues? Whether it’s through grant money; whether it’s through request letters to the property owners and follow up action by the city, either replacing the sidewalk and billing that particular property owner, versus fines… how do we manage that?”
The committees seemed to be in consensus that criteria must be established.
In other business, Jeannie Koontz, city clerk, announced that the KCATA RideKC Taxi Program was available to Gardner residents.
Using 10/10 Taxi, eligible riders can go up to 10 miles for $5. After 10 miles regular fees apply. The service is available any day at any time, including weekends and holidays. Ten one-way trips are allowed each month.
Eligible members are 65 or older and/or with a disability, who submit an application and are accepted for this pilot taxi voucher program. Upon acceptance, an electronic fare card is issued.
There are three options for those who want to apply. They can visit the ridekc.org website and apply online there, or they can call 816-221-0660 and have an application sent by mail, or they can go to Nolte Transit Center at 1701 W. 56 Hwy in Olathe and pick one up there.
During the member updates section, Gary Carson, Gardner resident and longtime ADA advocate, expressed frustration with city hall. He said that starting in July he was going to document his questions and expect to receive an answer within 30 days.
Carson said, “If I don’t, then well, we’ll just look at things from another point of view. I know my options, I know what I can do, and my options are not very favorable to the city of Gardner. I’ve talked about it before, but this time I’m serious.”
Carson later said he was impressed with what he’d heard from the committees at this meeting and hoped discussion would continue
Topic of joint meeting: city sidewalk conditions