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Topeka hasn’t spent any money on sidewalk repairs in 2021. A much-debated policy change could change that.



TOPEKA, Kan. – John Davis said he regularly encounters sidewalks in disrepair, especially the brick sidewalks.

“Every brick in the sidewalk goes (in) a different direction,” he said. “They are treacherous to go over. You will be going on a nice sidewalk then all the sudden you hit that red brick, and it is just like going off road.”

Davis lives near the Potwin area but cycles around the city, which makes sidewalks in poor condition especially dangerous.

The city has a sidewalk repair program but only has four projects “on the old process” and hasn’t “spent any money yet this year.” This prompted the Public Infrastructure Committee to change the 50/50 sidewalk repair program to a cost sharing program at its April 29 meeting.

Under the old program, the city would find rundown sidewalks and contact contractors to get it repaired.

Now, property owners would contact public works to have an inspector decide whether the repairs qualify for the program. If so, the property owner will pay the contractor and work with public works for reimbursement.

Topekans can also complain to the city if a nearby sidewalk is broken, council member Neil Dobler told The Topeka Capital-Journal. He said sidewalks need to be kept up to a certain standard and are the property owner’s responsibility to maintain. Homeowners will get a notice asking for the sidewalk to be repaired if it falls below the required standard.

The city of Topeka would help fund sidewalk replacement in both programs.

“It is no longer going to be 50-50,” said council member Christina Valdivia-Alcalá at Tuesday’s city council meeting. “You are going to be in charge of the majority of getting your sidewalks fixed. You are going to be in charge of phone calling, you are going to be in charge of paying more, most likely.”

Valdivia-Alcalá said this change was well-intentioned, but she is frustrated the changes put more of a burden on residents. Davis said he too is worried the new program has too many hoops for homeowners to jump through.

Dobler said the change could be brought before council in the future, which is what Valdivia-Alcalá hoped would happen in the first place. She said it is too impactful a change for a committee to handle and wants to see it discussed by the entire governing body.

City staff responded that the committee does have the ability to make changes.

“We’ll try it this year and see how it works,” Dobler said. “If there is a desire to change the policy, then we will probably look at it next year. Next year, we will bring it to the full council if that is a desire.”