Regina residents outraged about high price of sidewalk repair

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February 24, 2014 - 2:56pm Updated: February 25, 2014 - 3:00pm
Photo of sidewalk along Grant Dr. in south Regina. Photo taken from Google Street View. Assessment letter. Submitted by Robert Pitzel. Assessment letter. Submitted by Robert Pitzel. Assessment letter. Submitted by Robert Pitzel. Assessment letter. Submitted by Robert Pitzel.
Photo of sidewalk along Grant Dr. in south Regina. Photo taken from Google Street View.
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Some Regina residents aren't too happy about the coming construction season, given that the City wants them to pay thousands of dollars to have their sidewalks, curbs, and gutters repaired.

The letter Robert Pitzel received from the City of Regina at the beginning of February had some good news in it, but also a lot of bad. The good news was that the City wants to completely tear out and replace the section of Grant Road he lives on, along with the sidewalks, gutters, and curbs. The bad news was that the City wants him to help pay for it.

"It's an exceptionally large amount of money for anyone to take on," exclaimed Pitzel.

At $413.58 per assessable metre and an 18.29 metre lot, Pitzel's share of the construction bill comes to $7,564.38. That is, if he can pay it all at once. If he can't, the City also gives him the option of paying it back over ten years at a 6.57 per cent interest rate, which would put the total at $10,557.

Pitzel said the reality is he just can't afford it. While the City is trying to make him take a loan that he doesn't want, Pitzel said he's actually considering selling his house instead.

"I've been watching my income basically get whittled away by rate hikes and taxes and I essentially am down to zero disposal income, so I need to make some type of adjustment."

He said the whole situation is extremely frustrating, asking what his property taxes are for if not construction projects like this.

"The bus uses my street a hundred times more a day than I do, so I don't get where the people on this block, they hold all the responsbility of maintaining it."

"COST SHARING" PROGRAM IS FREQUENTLY-USED

The City of Regina is proposing the work be done under the Local Improvement Program. The City has been using that mechanism since the 1980s to help fund construction in areas that need work but aren't earmarked through other venues like the Roadways Improvement Plan. With it, homeowners put forward some of the money for construction projects their homes are adjacent to because they stand to benefit from the work being done. The program has been used to fix sidewalks on 26 residential streets since 2000, according to the city's data.

The complete Grant Road project will cost $3 million, based on uniform rates City Council passed in November. The City will pay for all of the road repairs, while the cost of the sidewalks, gutter, and curbs will be shared between the City and homeowners. That means homeowners are being asked to pay 77 per cent of the sidewalk work ($569,375.59) compared to the city's 23 per cent ($174,024.41).

Adam Homes, the director for roadways and transportation services with the City of Regina, called the program "cost-sharing."

"The bulk of the cost for the total projects are shared by all rate-payers in the city, but we do look for local owners to pay for a small portion. And that's strictly related to the concrete works that are adjacent to their property."

Homes said when choosing projects to pursue, they try to balance things between the need for roadwork and the cost to homeowners.

"We aknowledge that there's costs with these improvements for the individuals living within the area. We take that into consideration when we make decisions involving improvements to infrastructure."

When it comes to the 6.57 per cent interest rate the City charges on the ten year extension, Homes explained that the City took the average private lending rate of five banks.

"There's a cost for us to provide that service (the extension) for the residents, so that's why there's an interest rate."

HARD TO SAY NO

If the residents on Grant Dr. decide they don't want to pay for the construction they can put together a petition. If a majority of people in the construction area sign it, the work will change.

"The sidewalks definitely wouldn't be done, and we'd look at different ways to mitigate them using either mudjacking techniques or asphalt capping to remove any of the trip hazards. And we'd have to evaluate the roads."

The City of Winnipeg has a similar program where homeowners in an area can share the cost of an improvement project.

The City of Saskatoon used to have a local improvement program, but it was discontinued a few years ago. The City said it was mostly due to the level of work that was required to initiate the process, and that most areas would vote against the improvement because they didn't want to spend the money. Now Saskatoon's sidewalk preservation program is tied to the mill rate, and a dedicated road levy that was created in 2014.