Was City Rooked by Sidewalk Contractors?
sidewalk in front of your home may be a shade of gray, but theres
also a lot of green involved. And thats why this pedestrian issue
is back in the news.
City Councilman Robbie Waters recently complained publicly that Sacramentos sidewalks look like a checkerboard because contractors have been sloppy about matching colors when making sidewalks wheelchair-friendly or repairing cracked segments.
He probably meant chess board, since our sidewalks are more black-and-white than black-and-red, but that aside, he is right to be concerned about the way the citys hired help has been doing its job.
But he should be concerned not only on behalf of the city taxpayers, but also for residents who have had to pay for city-mandated, city-contracted sidewalk repairs out of their own pockets.
Readers of this newspaper might recall the September, 2000 news story about a 70-year-old South Sacramento woman who was told she would have to replace 133 square feet of sidewalk in front of her home. Cracks made the sidewalk unsafe, a city inspector declared, and since a sidewalk in front of a home is the responsibility of the homeowner, the fixed-income senior was responsible for the $790 repair job.
The cost came as quite a shock to the homeowner, and the more she examined the bill, the madder she got. Along with the charge for pouring concrete and a $20 paperwork handling fee even though the papers were being handled by city employees whose salaries already are covered by taxpayers she was billed $37.30 for a color-matching agent.
In 2001, yours truly received a similar bill for sidewalk repairs in the Tahoe Park area. The $380 price tag included the paper-shuffling fee and $14 to make the color match the existing sections.
The citys concrete maintenance general supervisor explained at the time that the coloring agent, lampblack, was needed so new sections wouldnt stand out like a sore thumb and detract from neighborhood appeal or property values.
That explanation sounds good in theory, but it is clear that the city didnt practice what it preached. In Tahoe Park, for example, there are many obvious color discrepancies on sections of sidewalk that fall under the citys responsibility those torn up to replace fire hydrants or on corners, for example. Repaired sections in front of homes also look much whiter than the old sections, making one wonder what happened to the money the homeowners paid for lampblack.
Apparently based upon Waters complaint, the city manager has indicated that he will investigate whether contractors hired by the city have been receiving money for work they havent been doing.
During his investigation, the manager shouldnt forget about the 400 to 500 property owners per year who are forced to pay for color-matching when sidewalk repairs are ordered by the city. To avoid having liens put on their homes, these homeowners pay their bills without much questioning. If they dont get what they pay for, refunds are in order.
It may only be a matter of $20 here and $30 there, but many of the homeowners who paid this money are fixed-income seniors who live in older, poorer neighborhoods where time and tree roots have taken their toll on sidewalks. These people shouldnt be the pawns in the contractors game of chess.
Kline is a Sacramento native who has been writing about seniors' issues
since 1991. He has served as Spectrum's editor for the past five years
a period that has seen the paper receive awards from the California Newspapers
Publishers' Association and National Mature Media Awards program.