Two uptown property owners approached Hillsboro City Council on Monday in opposition of a sidewalk project in uptown Hillsboro that would cost them an assessment on their property taxes.
Council member Dick Donley, sitting in for absent president of council Lee Koogler, said the project affects portions of the southbound lane of South High Street in the uptown area and includes new street lights and brick pavers, in addition to sidewalk replacement, in order to match the work done on the other side of the street in previous weeks.
Mary Hamilton, who owns Wilkin-Wilkin Insurance on South High Street, said she opposes the assessment because she doesn’t feel the sidewalk replacement should be her expense.
“Our sidewalk is perfectly good,” she said. “I don’t understand why we have to be assessed for a perfectly good sidewalk… I don’t feel it should be my expense.”
Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Mel McKenzie said city ordinances dictate property owners are responsible for maintaining sidewalks, adding that while there’s nothing wrong with that portion of sidewalk, the streetlight installation is a matter of safety and the brick pavers keep the aesthetic uniform.
McKenzie said the city has purchased the lights and pavers for that section of South High Street, and said he would have the city’s contractor come up with an estimate for labor costs so Hamilton could decide if she wanted to pay for the labor herself instead of having an assessment.
Hamilton said she didn’t understand why her sidewalk had to be replaced when the sidewalk outside of Pizza Hut on South High Street is in a much more advanced state of disrepair.
Council member Rebecca Wilkin also said she feels there are other sidewalks in the city that should be addressed before the ones in question.
“We’re trying to focus on the uptown area,” McKenzie said.
Hamilton said she was also concerned about possible structural damage the sidewalk replacement could cause, to which Donley replied the city’s contractor has liability insurance for such cases.
Steven Wilkin, a nearby property owner, also approached council with similar concerns, describing the sidewalk in front of his South High Street property as “perfect.”
Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Mel McKenzie said the installation of the street lights, which he again described as a safety issue, requires tearing out the sidewalk and putting a new one in.
“As the safety and service director, I have the right to say what’s safe for the city,” McKenzie said.
“Based on what best practices,” Wilkin asked.
“On what best practices? I’m sure if you give me time, I’ll find something that one light on a city block is not safe,” McKenzie said.
Donley said the city will provide Hamilton and Wilkin with cost estimates and will continue with the sidewalk project.
“We’re going to do the sidewalks, OK,” Donley said. “We’re going to do the pavers. It’s in our ordinance that we can do that… The city has control over the sidewalks. What we will do, there will be a cost estimate for what it’s going to take… We’re going to break down the same thing for Ms. Hamilton, we’re going to do a cost estimate… for your two sections of property, and the safety and service director… will get that information to you, and then you can compare the costs.”
“I agree with what [Steve Wilkin] and Ms. Hamilton are saying,” said council member Tracy Aranyos, “and I understand that, but what [Donley] is saying is we’re trying to improve the city… If you want to pinpoint it, it’s lighting, safety and maintenance schedule so that all properties would get done at the same time. We’re trying to get the whole city on a schedule.”
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.