SIOUX CITY -- Back in May, Alan McGaffin received a bright yellow notice from the city informing the Morningside resident his sidewalk needed to be repaired.
While standing on the sidewalk in front of his South Paxton Street home, McGaffin observed white Xs marking two adjacent panels that were out of alignment.
"I observed that my neighbors up and down the street had also received the same reminder from the city," McGaffin said. "I had no idea there were so many bad sidewalks. It just goes for blocks and blocks and blocks. There are so many sidewalks that are coming out and being replaced and repaired."
Under city code, the city has the ability to require property owners to repair public sidewalks that adjoin their properties to keep neighborhoods safe and pedestrian-friendly. The city considers sidewalks defective if they have extensive horizontal or vertical separation, large holes, extensive cracking or other signs of blight.
McGaffin hired a contractor, who filed down one of the defective concrete panels and replaced the other for around $200. He said the work was completed by June. He wishes the city was as quick to fix potholed streets.
"I think they're going to have first-class sidewalks over here in Morningside and really, really poor quality roads," said McGaffin, who said he diligently reports potholes to the city. "I waited so long on a pothole that I called twice about it. I could sit on my patio and I could hear vehicles hit that pothole. It was so deep and so destructive that I finally took a city sandbag from a barricade that had an extra sandbag on it and threw the sandbag in the pothole to relieve some motorist from having to replace their whole automotive suspension."
City engineer Gordon Phair said sidewalk repair is a separate program from street repair. Annually, he said the budget is divvied up to do some work in each maintenance category.
"There are a lot of (streets) out there that need to be repaired, but we can't fix them all at once," he said. "We try to do a little here and a little there with everything. We can't do it all at once."
This past spring, Phair said the engineering division broke the city up into 10 zones, each containing 4,000 properties, for sidewalk repair. Each zone's number corresponds with the year that sidewalks in that area will be inspected.
Zone 8, which corresponds to 2018, happens to be in Morningside and encompasses McGaffin's neighborhood. Sidewalks in Zone 9, which is just south of Zone 8, will be inspected in 2019, Zone 10 in 2020 and so forth. Phair noted that the city will also inspect sidewalks that residents have filed complaints about, even if those sidewalks are outside the particular zone the city is focusing on.
Phair said it took about 1 1/2 months to inspect all of the sidewalks in Zone 8. He said inspectors hung notices on the doors of property owners with deficient sidewalks informing them they would receive a letter from the city. In the letters, the city set a deadline of 30 days for repair work to be completed.
"We had about 75 percent compliance," said Phair, who said the city has repaired sidewalks at more than 50 of its own properties this year. "It is supposed to be a hard, fast rule with 30 days, but if someone wants an extension, we'll easily give that to them. Our contractor comes and goes. If that person doesn't do it, we'll get them next year."
When a property owner fails to address deficient sidewalks, Phair said the city hires a contractor to complete the repairs. Then, the property owner receives an invoice that includes the cost of the repair plus a 25 percent administrative fee. If the property owner fails to pay the amount requested, that expense becomes a lien on the property.
This year, Nelson Construction and Development has the contract for the city's sidewalk repair program. Phair said the cost to replace the average sidewalk panel is around $100, which includes the administrative fee. He said he hasn't heard any residents say they can't afford the repairs.
"Almost all of the time, most homeowners can do it themselves. The elderly have a hard time doing it, but they can always hire that out with contractors," he said.
Alfredo Galvez, owner of AG Construction, agreed that property owners can do their own sidewalk repair and replacement, as long as they use the right mix of concrete. Galvez, who said he hasn't done much residential work in Morningside, is currently booked up.
"We are real busy right now," he said. "We work until November, but it depends on the weather. If it's alright, we keep going."