City program makes sidewalks affordable

ALPENA – The City of Alpena isn’t in a position to fund a full-fledged sidewalk replacement program, but what it is doing is making it affordable for property owners to have improvements to make the sidewalks in front of their home.

People who wish to have stretches of sidewalk replaced only have to pay 60 percent of the cost of the work, and if the bill is over $300 can enter into an agreement where payments are spread out over 10 years. Steve Shultz, assistant city engineer, said the plan the city previously had in place where special assessments were issued to pay for improvements are over, but work to sidewalks need to be done. He said the initiative is in place to help resident who want sidewalk improvements have a simple time doing so.

“This is strictly voluntary and on a signup basis. We do not go to people’s homes and require them to have work done,” Shultz said. “I don’t think people know we have the 10-year payment plan in progress. If they call us we will come out and do the measurements and give them an estimate, we’ll put them on the list and they won’t owe us any money until the work is done.”

Residents are obligated to pay 60 percent of what the actual cost of the materials and construction of the new sidewalk is. Shultz said the overall cost is $204 and when it is broken down it is much cheaper.

“If you look at a five-by-five chunk of sidewalk, which is standard, it would run $51 for that one section,” Shultz said. “People call and I can give them a rough estimate, or we can go measure and give an actual estimate. Of course if the contractor shows up and there are issues with drainage or something they will take as much sidewalk as they need to.”

Shultz said there are many reasons people want to get the sidewalks replaced. He said sections that are damaged can cause tripping hazards or difficult to navigate on a bike or skates. He said there also are special situations where the city will pay more of the cost of repairs.

“If there is a tree that is causing damage to the sidewalk we do give credit for tree damage,” Shultz said. “If it is just a standard tree we give 10 feet free and if it is like a silver maple tree we will give them 20 feet for free because that type of tree has a shallow root system that can really disturb sidewalks, so we give them more.”

People who wish to have private walk ways and paths to and from their homes will have to find someone else to do the work and pay full price however. Shultz said the offers the city has only applies to sidewalks.

“This is just for the sidewalk that is parallel to the property and the street,” Shultz said. “It doesn’t repair sidewalks to the house and it doesn’t replace any of the sidewalks that go all of the way to the curb either, like a carriage walk.”

Shultz said the city charges 6 percent on the balance of any bill each year and if a payment is passed due it will be added to the owner’s tax bill either in the summer or winter depending on when the bill was due.”

Shultz said he hopes people take advantage of the city’s program.

“We don’t see as many people participating as we would like, I guess. If we would have more people call up and have it done it would be great because we do have some areas of sidewalk that are bad,” Shultz said. “Overall I think we have a great sidewalk system and it is very walkable. We went through many areas of town already and improved them. For the most part I think the system is in pretty good shape.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at