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Sandy Sidewalk Repair Funds Rejected By Twp. Committee

Officials say policy must be streamlined to more clearly state who is responsible for repairs after emergency situations.

Township officials voted last week against appropriating $55,000 for a bond to repair sidewalks damaged by Superstorm Sandy. 

Typically, a property owner is responsible for maintaining the sidewalk in front of his or her home. However, the discussion arose at the Montville Township Committee's Feb. 26 meeting as the township has previously funded similar repairs following destructive storms such as Sandy. Ultimately, the ordinance was rejected with Committeeman Scott Gallopo, Committeeman Don Kostka and Mayor Tim Braden voting against the bond ordinance.

Since the money to repay the township debt incurred by the bond would be paid with taxpayer dollars, some expressed that they did not believe it was fair to fund repair projects that would only apply to some residents.

"I'm in opposition to this bond because it favors a handful of people, 53 property owners, whereas many people in Montville had damages, lost income, salary, etc. from Sandy" resident Kurt Dinkelmeyer said during a public hearing on the ordinance.

Resident Dan Pagano said he also felt that the township should not cover the cost and noted an instance where a curb was damaged by a tree company hired by the township but repairs were not to be picked up by the municipality.

"We're fixing sidewalks that I don't think are the town's responsibility but we can't get an asphalt curb fixed," he said.

Township Administrator Victor Canning said the township's policy is unclear on who is responsible for the sidewalk repairs after such a storm and that the township has covered similar costs previously.

"The township has, in the past, taken care of curbs and sidewalks and removed trees and stumps under less of a condition than the hurricane that we dealt with this fall," he said.

He also noted that the township was forced to assist with clearing sidewalks, even when the work may not have been the municipality's responsibility, immediately following the storm.

"If we turned around and took the adage that, 'Hey, listen, it's the homeowners' responsibility,' we would have had streets blocked off," he said.

Canning said that as he understood the township's policy, under normal circumstances and normal wear and tear, the homeowner would be responsible. He said he felt it would be prudent for the township to more clearly define the scope of what is outside a normal circumstance, though, and also put in writing that planting trees between curbs and sidewalks is not advised.

Gallopo said the committee should make a strong effort to ensure that the ordinances the township has on the books and the policies that are put into action match up. In this case, while the township's ordinance indicates that sidewalk maintenance is the responsibility of a property owner, the policy that has been in place for the past 30 years says the Department of Public Works will remove trees and replace sidewalks damaged by them if they are damaged during a storm-related incident and in the right-of-way.

"I dont like the fact that we have policies and past practices that are in direct conflict with ordinances that we have on the books," Gallopo said. "We're constantly putting out fires because we're trying to clean this stuff up."

Still, Committeeman Jim Sandham said the committee should be sensitive to the cause of the damaged sidewalks and that the storm was a natural disaster.

"For $7 a household, which is what we're talking about here, I would support this ordinance," he said.

Committeewoman Deborah Nielson also acknowledged what had been done in the past and said it is the responsibility of the committee to make it clear in which circumstances the municipality will assist with repairs.

"We, collectively, as a body, should have recognized that there were loopholes and taken the opportunity to perhaps close those loopholes," she said of what had been done in the past following Irene.

Braden said he also did not think it fair, however, for the township to discern which storms sidewalks would be repaired after based on the category of storm.

"I acknowledge Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Irene were super storms and tragic events, however, if we are going to separate a homeowner whose tree went down and dislodged his sidewalk in Sandy from a neighbor whose tree went down in a thunderstorm in July, I can't support this relief," he said.

Mom Tlm March 06, 2013 at 12:31 PM
Draw the line. . . . Stop socializing everything. . . Individuals have to become responsible. Let's not imitate the federal govt and inflate to infinity. People should not take on expenses (such as homes) if they have to come asking for everyone else to pay for the extra's that come along with it.
Mom Tlm March 06, 2013 at 12:34 PM
Mr. Dinkelmeyer is correct, most all of us suffered losses from Sandy, trees down, windows broke, stumps to grind, etc., and we each individually must absorb those expenses.
Maxim Sapozhnikov March 06, 2013 at 12:45 PM
Interesting set of priorities we have in Montville. I truly have no opinion in regard to the sidewalk and its price tag, but school board wants to (and likely will) waste half a million of public money so some kids could play football in middle school, and people are okay with that.
Mom Tlm March 06, 2013 at 01:36 PM
Max, some may be ok with the $630,000 price tag of bussing to change Lazar's schedule. I CLEARLY AM NOT. My kids went through the system just couple years back and it wasn't easy. But we did it, by eliminating playing on club teams, and other time extensive sports (which were too demanding for the age anyway). $630,000 to now serve today's group, is not right. We all lived through it just fine. . . . It would be a tremendous waste of our money. . . .
reg March 06, 2013 at 02:02 PM
All township taxpayers paid the expense of removing homeowner's trees from the sidewalks and roads. Let's have an ordnance that says if homeowner's tree falls across sidewalk and road, clean it up in 7 days or have the Township do it for you at your expense. The Township should send a bill to those homeowners whose trees were removed and use the money to fix sidewalks the Township planted trees destroyed. It's about time the Township recognizes that planting trees between the curb and sidewalk is not a good idea. It cost me $2000 to fix the sidewalk Township tree destroyed.
D Ambriano March 06, 2013 at 02:29 PM
Depends on who actually owns the trees. A lot of times, the power company right of way extends into the homeowner property. Unfortunately, the power company has little to no interest in maintaining those roadside rights of way in many cases. Thus, the trees that fall are actually the power company's responsibility, and the power company is the one who comes along and cleans up--at least by me.
reg March 06, 2013 at 06:23 PM
The power company maintains trees within 10 feet of the road for safety sake if the trees are a hazard to power lines. The trees were planted by the Township or the homeowner or Mother Nature. At one time our Township had a Safety and Security Committee whose responsibility it was to alert homeowners to issues with vegetation that was too close to the road, particularly if it caused visibility problems at intersections. The Committee no longer exists and vegetation overgrowth is a result, causing many dangerous intersections. Maybe it's time for the Committee to be reestablished.
D Ambriano March 07, 2013 at 02:56 PM
Well, the power company is SUPPOSED to maintain trees within 10 feet of the road. They actually don't address anything until they're laying across the street after one storm or another, and then they leave a gigantic mess behind. My street looks like a war zone.
Dan Grant March 07, 2013 at 04:18 PM
Keep in mind many of the trees close to the road were required by the Township through the Planning Board. When many of these homes were built we had a Shade Tree Commission. They required trees to be planted by developers as these home were built. We stopped that for the most part as the homes became more expensive and home owners would landscape on their own. Over the years these required plantings have grown to damage sidewalks not withstanding storm damage. That is not the residents fault, it is a result of the planning of the times by the Township. Governing bodies often do things and help small groups of people but not this Township and not the people on this forum. Little by little we have this attitude of everyone for themselves and to bad for the next person and it isn't very attractive at all.
Jim March 07, 2013 at 05:33 PM
My street is one of the worse with tree damage and Mr. Grant is absolutely correct. My neighbors who had devastation with the sidewalks was caused by trees that were planted when these homes were built. These trees are the township responsibility and this type of tree should of never planted years ago. They are dangerous with dead limbs and leaning in to the streets and bringing up the side walks as well. 10 to 15 trees came down on this one street alone and the sidewalks right now are extremely dangerous to walk on. The residents should pay for this damage. I do not agree with that.
reg March 07, 2013 at 08:02 PM
Homeowners with Township trees that have dead limbs and are leaning into the street can call the Road Department and have the tree pruned or removed as is deemed necessary. Unfortunately the lifting sidewalk caused by the unpruned tree is the homeowners responsibility. Stay on top of the Road Dept and the tree will be pruned. I agree the Township planted the wrong type of trees. We all pay the price for that mistake. Maybe we need to find out who recommended that particular tree type and make sure we never use their recommendation again.
Jim March 08, 2013 at 03:06 PM
In this economy when the township planted these trees 30 years ago or more and the trees caused the damaged to the sidewalks during this storm and in the past storms/thunderstorms the township fixed the sidewalks. Now they will not pay for the repairs? I think the township is responsible and they are the ones that should pick up the costs. Who has that type of money to spend thousands to fix a repair that was caused by trees that should of never been planted in the first place. The town should inspect these trees and I have lived in town for 22 years and they have never pruned the trees the right way. The road department does a great job but there man power is down and I do understand the time constraints. If I had the choice I would want these trees taken down because they will eventually fall in another storm. But we are talking about at least 50 trees on my block alone that are leaning and ruining the sidewalks.
reg March 08, 2013 at 05:14 PM
The Township should maintain all sidewalks that are destroyed by the trees they planted. We had a tree destroy our sidewalk and we paid $2000 to repair it so we wouldn't be sued if someone fell. The Township then wanted to replant the same tree in the same place to destroy the sidewalk again.
momcheer80 March 08, 2013 at 06:12 PM
I don't understand this. If a hurricane rips up a tree and a sidewalk needs to be repaired, people think the town should pay. If the tree in front of my house gets uprooted during a mild storm, and my sidewalk is damaged, can I ask the town to pick up the tab? I don't think so. What if the tree's roots pop up the sidewalk and the sidewalk needs to be fixed. It's a town tree, so I guess the town pays? I don't think so. This doesn't make any sense to me. We are responsible for shoveling and maintenance of the sidewalks in front of our homes. I thought it's the local law? And by the way, who the heck planted the wrong trees anyway. Thanks for nothing....
reg March 08, 2013 at 08:08 PM
That's the problem. If the town tree breaks your sidewalk, you have to pay to repair it or possibly get sued if someone falls on it. If you are lucky enough to wait for a storm and the tree falls and breaks the sidewalk, the town fixes it. Nothing makes sense anymore.
momcheer80 March 08, 2013 at 08:25 PM
Oh, ok, Basically, it's what I thought all along. I'm responsible for my repairing my sidewalk, period - no exceptions.

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