Starkville Aldermen prepare to take on sidewalks regs

April 3, 2009

Tim Pratt -


STARKVILLE -- A new ordinance intended to regulate the construction of sidewalks in Starkville is in the final stages and the city''s Board of Aldermen will soon take up the measure. 


Ward 4 Alderman Richard Corey on Tuesday will request two public hearings to discuss the ordinance, which would require sidewalks along all new public and private roads built within the city. It also would require sidewalks in front of all new homes and businesses before the city issues certificates of occupancy. 


Corey has worked extensively with the city''s sidewalk committee on the ordinance and will request public hearings on April 21 and May 5. The committee hopes the board will adopt the ordinance after the May 5 hearing. 


Although the ordinance addresses the construction of new sidewalks, it also attempts to improve the city''s existing walkways. 


According to the ordinance, whenever the city makes significant improvements to a major roadway, such as overlaying, the city also would have to install new sidewalks along the stretch of road, or improve the road''s existing walkways to meet current standards. The goal is to hold the city to the same standard as a private developer, committee Vice Chairman Joe Fratesi said. 




Budget concerns 


City Engineer Edward Kemp is a big proponent of citywide street and sidewalk improvements, but he warned the committee that requiring sidewalks along all new stretches of road, and along areas where overlays are taking place, could cut into the city''s budget significantly. 


A 5-foot-wide concrete sidewalk on one side of the road costs a minimum of $120,000 per mile, Kemp said. To overlay one mile of road costs a minimum of $180,000 per mile, he said. 


In recent years, the city has only spent $400,000 to $500,000 on capital improvements per year, Kemp said, though this summer the figure is likely to be much higher. Aldermen budgeted 6.34 mills, or roughly $1.08 million, for capital improvements for the 2008-2009 fiscal year. 


Coupled with the $3 million bond issue passed by the board this winter, the city''s infrastructure is set to receive more than $4 million worth of improvements this year. But Kemp stressed how each new sidewalk will cut down on the amount of money available for road and drainage system improvements. 


"I just want everyone to realize the financial implications of saying you want a new sidewalk every time a road is overlaid," Kemp said. "I think the city''s roads could start to crumble if we do it this way." 


The committee also wants the board to designate part of the city''s capital improvement project budget strictly for sidewalks. The committee hopes the board will agree to designate 20 percent toward sidewalks, but said the figure is negotiable. 


Additionally, as a way to maintain existing sidewalks, the committee included in the ordinance a section holding property owners accountable for their walkways. According to the ordinance, if a sidewalk is damaged or removed by any direct action, such as backing over it repeatedly with a heavy truck, the property owner would be responsible for replacing or repairing the section.