The responsibility for uneven sidewalks falls on the shoulders of property owners, but Canal Winchester has a program designed to help pave the way for a safer walk and less costly repairs.
Property owners with sidewalks are required to maintain them in good repair in accordance with the Ohio Revised Code. In order to assist with the mandate, Canal Winchester created a sidewalk improvement grant system to help offset costs for residents.
A pair of programs help property owners reduce the cost of sidewalk repair or replacement through matching grants or financial assistance for applicants with income at or below 175 percent of the federal poverty guidelines as published by the Ohio Consumers Counsel.
"It’s always been the homeowner’s responsibility for maintaining the sidewalk and was pretty much complaint driven," said Canal Winchester Public Works Director Matt Peoples. "We’ve been lax on enforcement because there wasn’t a whole lot of complaints, but we started getting more.
"We’ve been going back and forth on design standards and looked through the regulations to see how to do it and make it a little less stringent. Before, you had to replace the sidewalk when it heaved 5/8 inch and we revised it to one inch. However, per regulations and the Ohio Revised Code, it’s still the resident’s responsibility.
"Council’s desire was not to overburden property owners, when they approved the revised policy. On certain projects, we get funding and when all the factors were put together, we decided to go with the grant program where a property owner does the work first and the village pays 50 percent of approved costs."
Grants and financial assistance are available to property owners inspected by the village and cited for repair.
Peoples said owners are sent a letter following the inspection and told they need to obtain a right-of-way permit within 21 days in order to conduct repairs. They then have 60 days to complete the work or face a fine of up to $500, have the work done by the village, and then be assessed on their taxes. Sidewalks throughout Canal Winchester are inspected on a rotating basis every five years.
Questions previously arose regarding trees planted under the village’s street tree program causing changes in sidewalk elevation.
"Ninety-nine point nine percent of the trees causing problems were not planted by the village," said Peoples. "The village did not establish the street tree policy until 1992."
Property owners participating in the grant program pay for the repair themselves and then submit an application for a 50 percent reimbursement of their costs. Once the work is complete and inspected, the applications, along with paid invoices, will be considered for the grant.
Financial assistance at 100 percent is provided for property owners meeting eligibility requirements according to family size and total household income ranging from $17,867 for one person to $48,317 for six people. Applications for both programs are available at the Canal Winchester municipal building, 36 S. High St.