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Healthy Built Environment

Posted on: July 18, 2019

LiveWell stays involved in city’s discussion to continue sidewalk hazard mitigation program

Sidewalk Bike 2019

Lawrence City Commissioners on July 9 voted to continue with the city's sidewalk hazard mitigation program.

In advance of the discussion, LiveWell Douglas County sent the Commission a letter voicing support for a program to systematically repair sidewalks. As part of this discussion, LiveWell has previously raised concerns about the financial burden sidewalk repairs might cause for low-income homeowners.

The program is designed to improve sidewalks in Lawrence by identifying sidewalk hazards and notifying homeowners adjacent to the defective sidewalks that they are responsible for repairs. The city plans to work on one of eight geographic sectors each year until the existing sidewalk network is fully restored — the program does not address areas with sidewalk gaps. Some residents have voiced opposition to the program, indicating they believe the city should be responsible for sidewalk maintenance.

“Our overarching concern is quality and safety of the sidewalk network,” said Chris Tilden, chair of LiveWell’s Healthy Built Environment Workgroup. “Our position is that we shouldn't stop to evaluate options because it could take several years to put a new program in place. And in the meantime, we'd be making no progress towards a better sidewalk network.”

Tilden said LiveWell’s concerns in the discussion about equity has been an important piece because the City Commission established a fund in 2019 to help low-income residents pay for repairs. Additional funding is proposed for this fund in the city’s 2020 budget, and funding is projected to continue in subsequent years. LiveWell did urge the Commissioners to evaluate the program each year to ensure it is meeting its goals and not creating inequitable financial burden on any group of local residents.

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