It’s still bad policy, but at least the City of Lock Haven makes provisions for hardship within their sidewalk maintenance ordinances. In Jenkintown Borough, it’s pay up or go to jail.
Grants for sidewalk repairs are available to qualifying low income single family, owner-occupied homeowners funded the city’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program. Should the cost of the sidewalk repair exceed the grant amount, the homeowner may be eligible to receive a city-funded loan. More info (click here).
At Monday’s Borough Council meeting, the board respectfully listened to me read my statement, and at the end of it, I received a great deal of sympathy, but as I expected, I received no relief. I’d be a fool to think otherwise.
Unfortunately, I also received some interesting misinformation. I don’t believe that anyone came out and lied to me, but I do believe that because no one has actually challenged this policy in living memory, that our volunteer governing board, our borough solicitor, and borough manager find comfort in their own inertia.
First of all, Councilor Bunker informed me that he believed a local realtor had established a fund to help people in my situation. This realtor, Andrew Smith, informed me that he knew that councilors were spreading this information, but that it was false. Mr. Smith established the fund to help spruce up distressed properties adjacent to those he hoped to sell in order to improve prospects for sale and increase its value.
Secondly, after much discussion and expressions of sympathy for my plight, borough solicitor Sean Kilkenny insisted that the sidewalks were indeed my property (an assertion agreed upon by several councilors), and that the sidewalks were easements. This belies the existence of the property marker I uncovered one inch before the edge of the sidewalk (top), and the map issued by Montgomery County (above).
So which is it? Not that this necessarily has any legal bearing over my responsibilities, but if our own officials have no clue how this works, how much can we trust them with other important matters that affect our town?
Finally, my councilor Laurie Durkin explained that everything the borough does is consistent with the “international code of …” As I wasn’t taking notes, I didn’t remember what she said, but on Wednesday I wrote her asking if she could clarify. I continue to await a response.
By the way, Ms. Durkin and Councilor Justin Mixon both apologized for not responding to my original letters. Despite the fact that they come to the borough office at least twice a month, no one saw fit to inform them that they had actual mail from one of their constituents nor did they seem to ask.
I would like to thank the mayor of Jenkintown, Ed Foley, for sending me a document that pertains to this commonwealth’s policy on sidewalk repair.
Make no mistake folks: This goes back decades, and it does seem to have everything to do with shifting liability from municipalities to its citizens property owners. You trip over a crack on the walkway in front of my house, I have to pay your hospital bills. This isn’t how it goes in my home state of Massachusetts. As I understand it, if I do not properly clear my walkway after, a snow storm, or I leave something in the path, I assume the liability. The property owner is responsible for keeping the pathway clear. However, if the walkway crumbles, and you step in a hole, the city is liable. And what do you know? The same principle applies to the roads.
As I preface many conversations, I’m not a lawyer, but this law seems to allow towns to place responsibility upon property owners, but it does not require it. If Jenkintown wants to pay for its sidewalks, I’m not yet seeing anything that precludes it from doing so.