Narberth’s government is inspecting every stretch of sidewalk in the borough and, as a result, informing some homeowners they need to make improvements for safety reasons.
Borough Manager Bill Martin said at Monday’s council meeting that the inspection process is nearly complete, with an effort organized alphabetically having reached the ‘W’ streets. Notices to residents asked that the uneven sidewalks be fixed within 45 days and included references for contractors that could do the work.
Council support for the program varied from member to member.
“We’re asking a lot of residents to spend a lot of money to make changes in a fairly quick period of time,” said Councilman Bob Wegbreit, who identified himself as one of the residents who received a notice. “I’ve looked at many locations that were cited; most of [the sidewalk disruptions] appear to be from street trees. I’ve never heard of anyone tripping, or of any reports on that. I’d like to see us take back these notices and look at this a bit more holistically, maybe hire a company to fix some of these that are not outlandish.”
Councilman Michael Alexander responded, “As someone who walks with a stroller down these sidewalks, I can say especially on the south side there are a lot of bumps. I don’t know how someone in a wheelchair would do it.”
Council Vice President Aaron Muderick, too, called the damaged sidewalks “a barrier to access.”
Another concern of Wegbreit’s was that street trees might fall or be cut down in the course of sidewalk repair, “and people will get frustrated and won’t replant. We’ve stated very clearly we want street trees.”
“We’ve never lost a tree yet” in that fashion, Martin told Wegbreit. The last sidewalk inspection was in 2003, he said.
Assistant borough manager Fred Hansell—who has already fixed the sidewalk in front of his own house, Martin said—told council members that Bartlett Tree Experts of Bala Cynwyd helped modify root systems on particularly problematic Narberth trees this summer.
Councilwoman Andrea Deutsch allowed that bad sidewalks need attention, as “some are minor and some are significant.” But she hesitated at the 45-day time frame.
“Is that too fast?” Deutsch asked.
“I think it is,” replied Councilwoman Heidi Boise, “if they’re not going to get assistance from the borough.”
The borough has established no penalty for failing to comply with the 45-day time frame, Martin said. He reported only one complaint by phone about the notices—though Wegbreit and Deutsch said they have heard others—and added, “We’ve had a number of permits already taken out.”
Borough officials will help residents find a contractor to do the work, or consult with them about how they might do it themselves.
“Seems like a lot of these could be solved by grinding away the corners,” Alexander said.