Kennewick says it mishandled notices to residents about sidewalks

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldApril 19, 2014 

Sidewalk Trouble

Cars drive past a damaged sidewalk on Friday afternoon at the corner of Kennewick Ave. and Newport St. in Kennewick.

SARAH GORDON — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

Kennewick officials have acknowledged they mishandled attempts to get some homeowners along Kennewick Avenue to repair sidewalks that had become a tripping hazard.

Letters were sent to 36 homeowners along the road, which features some of Kennewick's oldest homes. But the letters, mailed last month, had the wrong date, making it appear they had been sent ten months earlier. And the date the sidewalks were supposed to be fixed by fell on a weekend.

Cary Roe, the city's new public works director, said the city also failed to make a firm commitment to homeowners about whether it would reimburse them for some of their costs.

The letter said the city might reimburse property owners up to 25 percent of the repair costs, depending on the budget. But city officials this week said they will be reimbursed the full 25 percent.

The lack of information and misinformation caused Kennewick Mayor Steve Young to publicly apologize during a recent Kennewick City Council meeting.

"I personally am truly embarrassed by this," he said after one of the property owners told the council how confusing and frustrating the whole process has been.

The city received a complaint about the disrepair of the sidewalks along Kennewick Avenue east of Olympia Street from someone who walks in the area, said Evelyn Lusignan, the city's customer service manager.

A homeowner might be liable if someone trips and is injured because of the sidewalk next to their property, Lusignan said.

And after city officials are notified of the unsafe conditions, the city could be liable if officials do not follow up with property owners to get the sidewalks fixed.

Kennewick city code requires homeowners to maintain and repair sidewalks, planting strips, driveways and any other property in the public right of way adjacent to their property.

"We clearly need to improve the communication process and public outreach regarding sidewalk maintenance responsibility and the liability issues property owners face when sidewalks are not in good repair," Lusignan said. "We are committed to making these process improvements and our immediate priority is to follow up with the affected property owners."

Kay Workinger, who lives on Kennewick Avenue in a home built in 1925, told the council how disappointed, angry and sad she was after being ignored when she asked questions about the letter. She also said answers varied depending on which neighbor asked the question.

Fixing the sidewalks may cost the retired Kennewick School District teacher close to $1,000, at least at this point, she said.

She will fix the sidewalks, she said. Workinger has put a lot of love, time and money into her home, completely remodeling the interior in 2006. But she said she wants the process to be equitable.

A few other property owners also called city officials with concerns or questions about the sidewalk repair, Lusignan said.

Roe said the sidewalk issue will be dealt with more professionally.

City officials expect all of the sidewalk repairs to cost the city about $11,000, Lusignan said. Each property owner will have a different cost because some of the uneven areas can be ground down, while others will need to replace the full sidewalk panel.

Roe and other city officials plan to meet Tuesday about the issue. Roe then will follow up with affected property owners and schedule a meeting with them, Lusignan said.

-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com

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