Rutland considers cost of stepped up sidewalk repairs - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Rutland considers cost of stepped up sidewalk repairs

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RUTLAND, Vt. -

"I have walked for the 40 years that I have lived in Rutland," Pam Murphy said. "I used to walk with my children in carriages and now I walk with my grandchildren."

Murphy says she walks every single day. Whether it's to run errands in town or simply to take a stroll, she says she has always been a walker. But something has slowed her down: the sidewalks.

"It's not level," she said. "Most of it, the pieces seem to be broken up and some pieces seem to have like one end is very low, the other end very high... but just hard to walk."

Murphy says safety is her biggest concern and sometimes she finds herself walking in the street because the sidewalk is so deteriorated. But a Department of Public Works study may finally get the city on track to make some major improvements.

"It's a well-known fact here that we have to do a lot more than we are doing. But for the first time, we have a sense of what a lot more really is," said Jeff Wennberg, the commissioner of public works in Rutland.

Wennberg says in 2012 the department began surveying every single sidewalk in the city. The sidewalks were rated on a number of factors, including condition, pedestrian traffic and proximity to schools and the hospital. Wennberg says this inventory will now allow the city to see which areas are the worst of the worst and what the price tag is.

"The dollars involved are substantial," Wennberg said. "If we decide, for example, to try and fix everything that is substandard right away-- you are looking at upward of $5 million. That's a lot to spend on sidewalks."

But $5 million would cover just the most problematic stretches. The inventory states that a total cost for fixing all sidewalks is $12.5 million. Not all of those sections need replacement yet, but over 20 miles of sidewalk are in poor or failed condition.

The sidewalk inventory will be presented to the Board of Alderman and members will begin a conversation about how repairs might fit into an already tight budget.

"I hope it gives us more of an idea of exactly what is out there and what conditions they are in, both short term and long term. And then putting together a comprehensive plan where, obviously, you are not going to be able to do them all at once, but you know chip away at it and do it over a sustained period of time," said Dave Allaire of the Rutland Board of Aldermen.

Allaire says he knows the tax burden in the city is already tough, but believes the community is ready to talk about spending because the sidewalks are in such rough shape.

"I know it's a big problem in the whole city," Murphy said, "but I would say mostly the main areas would be better to start with."

Murphy says if the sidewalk projects make it onto the ballot she will vote for a small increase in taxes to help fill in the large concrete holes.

The city currently has $70,000 to spend this year on sidewalks; 3,000 feet of walkways have already been redone.

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