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Property owners, not city, are responsible for maintaining sidewalks

By ELAINE WILSON-REDDY

Contributing columnist

The City of Danville received a grant to repair the sidewalks on Main Street. Hallelujah! If you’ve been on Main Street over the past month or so, you have likely been delayed somewhat by the work. From what I understand, the eastbound side of Main should be complete by brass band weekend. The westbound side will get the upgrade following brass band.

These repairs and upgrades are welcome to those of us who frequent downtown Danville. The current sidewalk design with the inlaid brick was probably nice and nice to look at the first few years after they were installed. Over the years, weather and foot traffic have turned the bricks into tripping hazards. The bricks between Trinity Episcopal Church and Third Street are particularly scary.

The new sidewalks will be stamped concrete to resemble quarried rock and will match the sidewalk already in front of City Hall. Hooray!

For those of you who will complain about using the grant money on sidewalks instead of the streets, it’s important to know that grant funds are designated to specific projects. Grants have funded many improvements in Danville. As long as the city follows the directives of the grants, we will continue to enjoy the fruits of the grant writer’s labor.

What about those sidewalks in the rest of the city? Who is responsible for the maintenance of those sidewalks? I’m so glad you asked. I did a little research and discovered a city ordinance that deals specifically with sidewalks that are not under the city’s purview.

Article IV, Section 14-71 of the Danville City Code states, in part: “It shall be the duty of each owner of real estate abutting upon a sidewalk to repair, at his own expense, all holes, uneven surfaces, and other defects in the sidewalk upon which his property abuts, and the materials therefor shall be of similar grade and texture to that used in the construction of the abutting sidewalk.”

What?

Yes. It is the DUTY of the owner of the real estate that touches the sidewalk to keep said sidewalk in safe repair, at the real estate owner’s expense. The ordinance goes on to state that the city engineer or his designated agent can issue a warning to the real estate owner. Once the warning is issued, the owner has 180 days to repair the sidewalk.

I have heard many stories from friends who walk or run about their spills on Danville sidewalks. The Lexington Avenue sidewalks have a special chapter in my running journal. I have a scar the size of a silver dollar on my left knee from my toe catching a broken sidewalk and taking me down.

Last summer, through another grant, the breaks in the sidewalks were ground down in order to reduce the tripping hazard. While it has helped, it hasn’t cured the actual problem.

One of the reasons Weisiger Park was in dire need of repair was because of the tripping hazard. The roots of the trees had buckled the bricks and concrete so badly, it was difficult to walk without watching every step. Just before the park was renovated, I watched a lady take a face plant because she tripped over an uneven patch of concrete. She got up and kept going but I bet she was sore the next day. We just don’t bounce back after a certain age.

I, for one, am happy the city received the grant to repair and replace the downtown sidewalks. It will be nice to walk through town without worrying if I will gain another badge of courage on my knees.

Something a little not-local …

Special Counsel Robert Mueller made a rare public appearance in which he pronounced the end of the investigation into the Russian interference with the 2016 election. He said he was closing up shop and becoming a private citizen. Good for him. He and his team did amazing work. They were professional, non-partisan, and managed to have no leaks over the course of the investigation. If only we had that kind of work ethic in Congress and the White House.

Mueller, seemingly exasperated with the way the report has been spun, made it quite clear that Trump was not exonerated from obstruction of justice.

“And as set forth in the report after that investigation, if we had had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.” Mueller said in the press conference on May 29.

As I write this, it is the morning after the press conference. I haven’t watched any news nor logged on to social media. I can’t wait to see the tweet storm from Trump. I guess that placard on his podium will need to be edited from “No Obstruction, No Collusion” to “Probably Obstruction, Maybe Collusion.”

Bless his heart.

G. Elaine Wilson-Reddy, JD, is a professional educator, consultant and advocate. She lives in Danville.