Ninth Street sidewalk remains closed
By Bert Lehman
After a structural engineer assessed the condition of the sidewalk on Ninth Street, the city received conflicting reports as to whether the sidewalk should remain closed.
The sidewalk has been closed since April.
MSA Professional Services of Appleton conducted a field investigation of the sidewalk on Aug. 8.
During that field inspection Mark Harnois, a structural engineer with MSA, noted that the basement is constructed about five feet beyond the first floor outer wall. The outer wall of the basement supports the outer edge of the sidewalk along the street.
The following problem was noted, “The decking that is the steel reinforced and is acting as sidewalk, has areas of significant delamination, loss of the lower portion of the concrete, and corrosion of the reinforcing steel. This poses a safety risk for pedestrians at street level and anyone in the lower level.”
The report also stated that the sidewalk should remain closed.
Also included in the report was a solution to rectify the problem. The solution involved creating new walls for the basement and filling in the area underneath the sidewalk, which would be the area between the existing basement wall and the new basement wall. The sidewalk would then be reconstructed over that area. This solution would require adjustments to plumbing and electrical systems in the basement.
A week later the city received a more comprehensive structural report from Michael Maloney, project manager at MSA. This report stated there is a long term concern for the integrity of the sidewalk.
It also stated, “Currently, the risk to the safety of the public does not warrant closure of the sidewalk for pedestrian traffic. Our concern is with motorized vehicles and equipment such as snow removal equipment. This type of equipment should be prohibited from mounting the sidewalk. Any higher weight activity beyond typical pedestrian use should be prohibited until the problem is repaired.”
Even though MSA recommended the sidewalk be opened for pedestrian traffic, it also stated “cones should continue to be placed about two feet from the back of curb to identify the area of concern for motorized vehicles and to serve as a reminder to the landowner and business operators of the deficiency.”
The report stated the sidewalk was estimated to be safe for up to two years for pedestrian traffic, but recommended an annual inspection of its condition.
“We recommend that the city and landowner plan to repair for next construction season,” it was stated in the report.
A more detailed repair recommendation was included in the report. The estimated cost of the repair included $10,000 for electrical and plumbing adjustments and $55,000 for establishing a new basement wall to finishing the sidewalk.
The recommended solution is similar to the one Clintonville Public Works Director Toby Kersten and City Administrator Chuck Kell presented to the Clintonville City Council at its April 12 meeting. Also at that meeting, Kersten told the Council that after speaking with contractors he estimated it would cost just under $60,000 to fix the problem. That estimate is close to the MSA estimate.
Street Committee meeting
When the Clintonville Street Committee met Tuesday, Sept. 6, the discussion turned to whether the sidewalk should remain closed.
“If you open it up to pedestrians that would mean motorized wheelchairs,” Kersten said. “If I’m going to stay partially on this watch, that sidewalk honestly needs to stay closed. It is a definite risk.”
Clintonville City Attorney Keith Steckbauer said it was his opinion that the city is protected from liability based on the assessment of a structural engineer.
Kell asked Steckbauer how the city can control how the property owners remove snow since they are responsible for snow removal.
“If you open the sidewalk I think that just prolongs the issue of it (repairs) getting done,” Kell said. “Now the argument will be if it is fine to walk on why are we going to do anything? Why don’t we just restrict heavy equipment from being on it?”
Committee member Jim Supanich agreed that the sidewalk should remain closed.
“There are a lot of heavy scooters that are out on the sidewalks, plus people with wheelchairs,” Supanich said. “The potential of somebody accidently getting on there and not knowing what the bearing strength of that sidewalk is at this point, I don’t think it’s a good idea that we take a chance.”
He added that it’s not a good idea to let this drag out another year or two.
The committee voted 3-0 to leave the sidewalk closed to all traffic. Committee members Lance Bagstad and Amy Steenbock were absent from the meeting.
During the discussion Steckbauer said he feels there is a potential for litigation regarding the sidewalk issue.
“There are some issues that the city needs to give me direction for that I think could involve litigation,” Steckbauer said.
The City Council was scheduled to discuss the sidewalk issue in closed session at its meeting Tuesday, Sept. 13.