Kell describes it as ‘dangerous situation’
By Bert Lehman
The sidewalk on the north side of Ninth Street west of Main Street has been closed until repairs can be made to it.
The Clintonville City Council heard an update from City Administrator Chuck Kell and Director of Public Works Toby Kersten at the April 12 council meeting.
Kell told the council that the issue was revealed during a fire department inspection of the commercial building on that corner. It was a normal inspection by the fire department.
“In doing that, they identified a potentially serious issue for the city,” Kell said.
Kersten, who is also the city’s health inspector, was notified by the fire department about the situation, Kell said.
Kell said the basement of the building extends beyond the sidewalk to the curb line.
“When you go in the basement the whole sidewalk is exposed,” Kell said. “Cement is exposed in the basement of the building.”
There is a significant amount of water damage, causing the concrete to fall apart, Kell added.
“It’s a dangerous situation,” Kell said. “If somebody happened to put a car tire up on that sidewalk I think they’d end up in the basement of that building.”
Kell told the council the sidewalk is in immediate need of repair and the sidewalk has been closed.
The council was also told that city officials have met with the owners of the building regarding the situation.
Kell said the way this type of problem is normally solved is by removing the sidewalk, and then building a concrete wall with block a few feet inside the existing wall in the basement. The void between the two walls is then filled with stone, compacted, and then a new sidewalk is installed on top of the compacted stone. This same process was used on the Main Street portion of the same building when Main Street was reconstructed.
After speaking with contractors, Kersten said the cost to fix the problem is just under $60,000.
“Obviously the owners are very concerned about this because of the cost to their business,” Kell said.
Kell told the council it will have to address the cost issue because according to city ordinance sidewalks are the responsibility of the abutting owners. He said according to the ordinance the owner who has a sidewalk that needs be replaced has 20 days to fix it once the city notifies them. If the sidewalk isn’t replaced in that amount of time, the city can replace it and assess the cost to the owners of the abutting property.
“The council is going to have to decide if that’s the approach it wants to take,” Kell said.
Kell recommended the city work with the property owners on the situation, but ultimately it will have to decide who is going to pay for it.
He cautioned that whatever help the city provides, other businesses may seek the same help in the future.
The option of offering the building owners a 10 year payback versus a five year payback was suggested by Kell.
“But something needs to be done, it can’t stay the way it is,” Kell said.
Kell said he wasn’t asking the council to make an immediate decision, but wanted council members to think about how to handle the situation.
He added that the building owners asked about whether a structural engineer should be hired to give a recommendation. Kell said he was fine with that, but at the same time, he trusts the recommendation that city staff has provided.
The owners of the building also requested guidance as to who is legally responsible, Kell said.
Clintonville City Attorney April Dunlavy told the council that regarding liability, the city has done what it needs to do by closing the sidewalk once it knew there was a danger.
“I think the city is acting with the business owners so that there’s nothing underhanded about it,” Dunlavy said. “They’re fully aware of the situation.”
She added that the city ordinance Kell referred to is 8.10.
Alderman Darrell Teall said the city should deal with the situation the same as it has with similar situations in the past.
Kersten said this situation is being treated exactly the same as past situations.
Kell said the difference between past situations similar to this one is deciding who pays for it. Past situations like this on Main Street were fixed during Main Street reconstruction, in which the Wisconsin Department of Transportation paid for restructuring the sidewalks.
No action was taken at the meeting.