Prior to the seating of the new board at the April 26 meeting, Paonia trustees addressed sidewalk repairs. In 2013, voters approved a $3 monthly fee for construction and repair of sidewalks. The fee started in January 2014, and sunsets December 2024. It brings in about $30,000 per year for sidewalk repair and replacement.
But it doesn't say anything about funding the removal of trees that are causing some of the damage, which under current town ordinances falls largely upon the property owner, despite most of the trees growing in town rights of way.
In March, trustee David Bradford presented a list of 11 existing sidewalk-related ordinances dating back to 1903, and a list of nine options to consider for replacing them. The current ordinance, No. 5 on Bradford's list of recommended options, requires the town to remove all "inappropriate" trees/shrubs causing the damage, at the property owner's expense, and replace sidewalks using the fee money.
The board voted unanimously to instruct town attorney David Marek to draft an ordinance, to include No. 5, and two other options.
Amber Kleinman recommended the addition of No. 8 and 9, which allow construction of ramps over tree roots, with the town and property owner splitting the cost, or re-routing of sidewalks around obstacles using the sidewalk fund. Both would give property owners the option of keeping the trees if they are considered "high value" (not to include Siberian elm and other inappropriate species).
The town began replacing sidewalks last year. This year it will use the $30,000 collected in 2015, and an additional $5,000 from capital funds, for construction projects, mostly on Fourth Street near Paonia Elementary School. Work will avoid all areas where trees are at issue. That enrages Paul Douglas, a former planning commission member and watchdog. He chastised trustees for "kicking the can down the road" by not addressing the more damaged, hence dangerous, sections of sidewalk. Douglas has identified at least four such areas.
"To allow unsafe situations to persist while we dither around these issues is pretty dysfunctional," said Douglas. "The town spent the last 100 years going around in circles on this ... Your actions tonight have not resolved that issue."
The issue will be discussed at future meetings, and concerned citizens are urged to check agendas and make their comments to the town.