Mt. Oliver officials look into possible sidewalk grant program for residents
October 26, 2021
A decision on a request from a Mt. Oliver property owner to remove a broken sidewalk and replace it with grass was postponed while the Borough Council explores options.
The existing sidewalk on Sherman Street is not ADA compliant at two-feet wide and would have to be replaced with one wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. There is also a utility pole in the middle of the narrow sidewalk.
At the September Borough Council meeting, the owner requested permission to remove the exiting sidewalk and replace it with grass. A decision was expected in October.
Solicitor Emily Mueller said according to the ordinance, the property owner cannot remove a sidewalk and replace it with grass. The sidewalk would have to be repaired or replaced at the owner's cost.
Concerning the width of the sidewalk, Councilman Aaron Graham said the other side of the street from the property has the same issue with a narrow sidewalk, as do many in the borough. He was concerned it could be an exorbitant cost to owners to replace those sidewalks in the borough.
He asked if it would be worth exploring a "matching funds" program where the borough could pay up to half of the cost of a new sidewalk or help in some other way.
"This could be a good way to clean up some of the problem spots we have in the borough," Mr. Graham said.
Borough Manager Rick said some nearby municipalities offer similar programs and he would check with them to learn how their programs operate. He added it could be beneficial to study where pedestrian linkages should be, such as connecting streets like Ormsby and Hays, while on others like Koehlar or Moye it may make sense to not require sidewalks. If changes are proposed, the borough ordinances would have to be updated.
Ms. Muller said in another borough, neighbors banded together and were able to get a cheaper price per sidewalk by having multiple sidewalks replaced at the same time.
Mr. Hopkinson said other municipalities, when doing a street program, notified residents of the upcoming road work and then they could contact the contractor doing the work to replace the sidewalk at a less expensive price while the street work was being done. The residential work could possibly be aided with a matching grant program.
Ms. Mueller said if the council wanted to explore some kind of funding option for residents, they could suspend or postpone a decision on the Sherman Street sidewalk while more information is gathered.
"Whatever it is, you have to make it uniformly to everyone," she said.
The council decided to delay a decision on the Sherman Avenue property while more information is gathered.
Under new business, Councilman Paul Doyle expressed concerns about the length of time dumpsters are left in the borough. Other council members mirrored those concerns about the dumpsters, if permits are being issued and if the dumpsters are damaging borough streets or sidewalks.
Mr. Hopkinson said if the dumpster is placed in the street, Public Works checks on the permit. If the dumpster is placed on private property, the code enforcement officer checks on it. Permits are issued for 14 days and may receive multiple 10-day extensions.
In the Fire Department report, Chief Ron Lowrey said the fire company responded to 35 calls for service: 21 EMS calls and 14 fire calls.
He also said the department received a Federal grant for $149,000 for new Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) equipment. They plan to purchase 22 new SCBAs and new facepieces for every firefighter.
It's a matching grant so the department needs to match 5 percent, bring the total purchase price to $156,000. The new equipment has been ordered, but is delayed until after the first of the year due to COVID.
Mr. Lowrey asked if it would be possible to start a Capital Fund to accumulate unused funding from the borough's annual budget. The accumulated funds over several years could be used as a down payment on major purchases or for the fire company's portion of matching grants.
Mr. Hopkinson said it would be possible to set up an escrow account to be used for their purposes.