City contemplates grant program for downtown sidewalk repairs
The Vernon City Commission continues work putting together a budget. The most recent budget, coming from a budget workshop earlier this month, saw the commissioners trim out a few capital requests but add $25,000 for sidewalk repairs in the Main Street corridor.
Property owner Layne Chapman addressed the commission.
“I’m here to speak to the sidewalks in Vernon,” Chapman said.
Chapman said that the sidewalk in front of his property on Main Street had been broken by a fire in 1999.
“Recently it totally fell through. We actually have a hazard,” Chapman said. “Who owns the sidewalks? If it’s mine, what are the specifications?”
City Manager Marty Mangum said sidewalks were the property owners’ responsibility according to city charter and the city could file against the owner for repairs, but hasn’t.
Chapman asked if the city would consider assisting property owners with repairs. “There has to be a way we can work together,” he said. “Good sidewalks make good business.”
Mangum said the city was proposing placing $25,000 to the Main Street program for a downtown sidewalk repair program that property owners in the Main Street zone could draw from.
City Commissioner Don Aydelott said he would like to see property owners “have skin in the game” and the grants to have a “shelf life.”
Main Street program director Amanda Lehman said that all of the Main Street grants have a six-month time frame, and it would require a 50 percent match.
Commissioner Brett Ferguson asked if they could consider ground cover for sidewalks instead of concrete. He was told that that could be an option, but TxDOT has final say on Main Street and Wilbarger streets, as they are state maintained.
Resident Jim Gryssals questioned if business owners outside Main Street could apply for the sidewalk grants and was told no, it was only for the Main Street zone.
“There will be people that live just outside that, that will say, hey I can’t afford to fix my building. They won’t do anything for me,” he said.
“I recommend they come talk to the commission,” said downtown business owner and City Mayor Doug Jeffrey. “We have some business owners making a difference. We have some pretty neat businesses (downtown). Right now, we are only going to focus on them.”
Jeffrey said he would like city staff to draw up a plan for the sidewalk repair program and submit it to the commission.
The bottom line is a deficit of $127,000, Mangum said, in the proposed budget for next year. He added that $142,000 of that was for three water wells that are being carried over from this year.
The latest round of the budget showed a 2.5 percent pay increase for employees and the addition of 1.5 new positions. The previous version had no new employees. The new positions are for code enforcement and community development.
The commissioners were asked to consider 18 capital projects that had been presented at the previous budget workshop. The commission cut several items including a $100,000 building for the Parks/Street departments; amended some, including seeking some used vehicles instead of new; and approved some, such as as street seal coating and wastewater plant repairs . The commission will continue working on the budget during a workshop planned for Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. The meeting at City Hall is open to the public.