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home : news : news Thursday, December 14, 2017

4/19/2017 Email this articlePrint this article 
Who pays when trees damage sidewalks?
City will study policies of other communities after citizen complains

By Tom Pantera

Fearful of setting a precedent that might cost the city money and time, DeWitt officials will check with other cities on what they do when trees on city property damage sidewalks that homeowners must pay to repair.

Paul Ryan, 822 Fifth Ave., appeared before the city council Monday night to ask the city to take at least partial responsibility for such damage.

In an April 9 letter to the city, Ryan said sidewalks on his property were being pushed up by trees on the boulevard, which is part of the street right-of-way.

Ordinarily, the bill for replacing damaged sidewalks is paid by the homeowner.

"But the bottom line is that the sections I am contesting are the only ones 'heaving' due to city-owned trees," Ryan wrote, "and I feel the city needs to accept responsibility for the subsequent damage."

"Can the city do something about that?" Ryan asked city council members Monday.

City Public Works Director Matt Proctor told the council that Ryan's case was not the first time such damage had occurred because of boulevard trees, but his request was the first for the city to do something about it. He noted that while damage to sidewalks could cost homeowners money, the presence of trees also enhances the value of the property.

City Administrator Steve Lindner said when homeowners replaced a section of sidewalk, the city allowed them to go around the base of a tree to avoid such damage. But in Ryan's case, the tree is 8 years old and was smaller when the sidewalk first went in.

The city has worked with homeowners to get the work done, but has never contributed financially to sidewalk repairs in such cases, Lindner said.

Ryan said some other towns have split the cost of such repairs with homeowners and suggested checking with other cities to see what their policies are.

Council members tabled the matter to give Lindner time to check on other cities' policies.

Pay hike approved

In other business Monday, council members gave final approval to 2.9 percent salary increases for non-union employees of the city.

That will include department heads, putting their annual salaries at $99,768.84 for Lindner; $78,634.68 for Police Chief David Porter; $69,978.72 for Proctor; $69,070.68 for Director of Parks and Recreation Kevin Lake; and $69,379.44 for Director of Finance Deanna Rekemeyer. City Attorney Robert McGee's hourly rate will be $135.

Also on Monday, the council:

Hiked building permit fees to 7 percent, up from 5 percent, depending on the type of structure.

Held first reading of an ordinance that would increase city water rates by 3.64 percent, which would increase the monthly bill for a typical DeWitt family by 78 cents.

Approved a $300 annual expenditure for five years for the Clinton County Keep Iowa Beautiful Hometown Pride program, which provides a "community coach" to help cities find funding sources for betterment projects.

Approved a $5,651.60 change order for the southwest area storm sewer project to protect a fiber optic cable line and reposition a sanitary sewer lateral.

Approved a grant application to the Clinton County Community Development Association for $75,000 for the west side trail project.

Learned from Mayor Don Thiltgen that DeWitt had been named a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation for its urban forest management.

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