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Sidewalk improvements to come next year

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Athens community members who frequent sidewalks on Central Avenue, North Congress Street and South May Avenue may be able to expect a much easier commute in the coming future. Athens City Engineer and Director of Public Works Andy Stone has sought to repair these three areas of town.

Members of the Athens City Council recently discussed the undertaking, which should begin sometime in 2015. Third Ward Rep. Michele Papai pointed out, although projects of this nature are usually done in accordance with street improvements, this is not necessarily the most sensible approach in locations where the sidewalk is in need of immediate attention.

Talk about the issue comes at a time when Athens City Council has been focused on appropriations for the next calendar year.

“We’re looking at how to assess, or put money into, a sidewalk fund for sidewalk improvements,” Papai said. “And so what I’m asking council to be mindful of at this point is the whole budgeting that we’re going to start looking at (and) how to put money away to do these projects.”

Service Safety Director Paula Horan-Moseley acknowledged that her office is well aware the council has been advocating for funding sidewalks on an annual basis. In discussing figures, Horan-Moseley expressed confidence in potentially being able to finance the construction in this manner.

“This would still assess it back to the property owner, but it would be a methodology in which we could put $50,000 a year into improving sidewalks,” Horan-Moseley said.

Traditionally, homeowners are responsible for taking care of the sidewalk on their property. With the city taking action, residents might see some savings.

“The first step I would feel would be to issue notice to the homeowner allowing them to repair it by themselves. But if we have this in place…the cost might be less.”

It remained unclear to council members as to which portions of the identified sidewalks would be repaired, especially with regard to North Congress Street, which is considerably longer than the other two. Stone was unavailable for comment.

City officials were generally receptive to the idea, especially given the amount of walking that takes place on a daily basis in Athens.

“It’s great to see this moving forward,” said Athens City Clerk of Council Debra Walker. “It’s what makes it a pedestrian-friendly and a bicycle-friendly community.”

“A lot of our sidewalks are in great shape,” said At-Large Rep. Steve Patterson, who also expressed interest in exploring the possibility of repairing brick sidewalks. “But there are a few that I think do need some attention. I’m happy to see this moving forward.”

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