Parkersburg City Council approves commercial sidewalk program

No funding allocated for effort

Photo by Evan Bevins Parkersburg Mayor Tom Joyce discusses a proposed program to share costs for repairing sidewalks on commercial property during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

PARKERSBURG — City Council this week approved the creation of a program to assist commercial property owners with the cost of sidewalk repairs, but no money has been allocated.

Council voted 7-1 Tuesday, with Councilman J.R. Carpenter opposed and Councilman Eric Barber absent, to initiate a pilot program under which commercial property owners would pay for materials to repair or re-lay sidewalks and split the cost of labor with the City of Parkersburg. By ordinance, the sidewalks are the responsibility of the property owner, but the city has for about 10 years offered a program under which residents purchase materials and the city covers the labor to install or repair sidewalks on residential sites.

The city currently has 72 applications for that program, some dating back two years, City Engineer Adam Stout said. That’s why Carpenter voted against the commercial program.

“We need to take care of them first before we move on or spread thinner,” Carpenter said.

Parkersburg Mayor Tom Joyce has previously said the backlog is due to the city not offering enough money for temporary employees to do the sidewalk work. Future sidewalk work will be handled in-house or by a contractor, depending on the amount of work to be done and other factors, he said.

Photo by Evan Bevins Parkersburg City Councilman J.R. Carpenter asks a question about a proposed program in which the city would split the labor costs for repairing sidewalks on commercial property during Tuesday’s council meeting.

“The residential sidewalks, sure, those are important, too, but you have folks out here in the community who are just as big of contributors as the residents,” Joyce said Tuesday. “It doesn’t hurt to put something on the books for folks who have commercial property.

“It doesn’t hurt that (residential) program at all,” he said.

Carpenter questioned how far $38,000 proposed for the program would go and said the money should be spent on the residential sidewalks first. Finance Director Eric Jiles noted there is no funding set aside for the program yet because council rejected an amendment proposed by the administration during the recent budget hearings that would have allocated that money.

“All this (ordinance) does is establish the program,” City Attorney Joe Santer said. “Council then controls when and if they want to implement it by funding it.”

Carpenter also asked what sidewalks were being considered. Joyce said most people want to know how much the work would cost before they decide whether to pull the trigger. With the program in place, city officials could provide estimates and request a budget revision in the future, he said.