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Observer 11/24/14

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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow SMOOTHING THE WAY



SIDEWALK REPLACED: Chad Robbins of George Meyer Concrete of La Grande replaces a sidewalk on Elm Street Wednesday. Work is being performed downtown to improve sidewalk conditions. (The Observer/KELLY WARD).
SIDEWALK REPLACED: Chad Robbins of George Meyer Concrete of La Grande replaces a sidewalk on Elm Street Wednesday. Work is being performed downtown to improve sidewalk conditions. (The Observer/KELLY WARD).

By Ray Linker

Observer Writer

While only six people have taken advantage of a citywide local improvement district to replace their sidewalks, many others have used the system to get an evaluation and begin work, a La Grande official said.

Theres $100,000 worth of work going on right now and this is just the first year of implementation of the program, said City Engineering Superintendent Norman J. Paullus Jr.

Some individuals and companies have taken advantage of the program to get possible projects evaluated, and then theyve gone to private financiers rather than use the voluntary LID process, Paullus said.

That is fine with the city, he said. He said it was not the intent of the city to compete against banks and other lenders who can provide financing cheaper than the city.

For those taking advantage of the citywide sidewalk LID, the city charges 14 percent interest, with the cost spread over 10 years.

The city is not in the business of loaning money. People can get better financing at a bank, Paullus said. While the LID is a way to finance the projects over a long period, most people go get their own financing.

The LID program does offer an advantage to certain qualifying senior citizens 62 and older and with a specified minimum annual household income who might want new or improved sidewalks but cant afford it now.

They can defer the expense until the property changes hands and the cost is taken out when the title is transferred. Its basically a lien against the property.

Only $20,000 of the sidewalk work being done now is through the LID program, Paullus said.

The program is working extremely well. From the input we are getting from the property owners, they are pretty complimentary of the program, Paullus said.

The first area evaluated under the program was the downtown core. Furniture West and the Eagles Lodge were among the first to take advantage of the evaluation, Paullus said, although both decided to seek their own financing.

Previously the city fixed sidewalks on a complaint basis only, Paullus said. It has been more than four years since the city had a sidewalk local improvement district, when the costs amounted to $200,000.

It can cost a property owner more than $2,500 to replace a 100-foot-long sidewalk in front of a home. A normal sidewalk is 4 inches deep and 6 inches deep at the driveway, Paullus said.

The sidewalk plan developed by the city staff and approved by city council calls for inspection of all residential sidewalks every 10 years, and of the central business district sidewalks ever five years.

Several city ordinances set forth maintenance standards.


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