Bob Orosz of Grove Street became concerned when trustees June 7 approved cost hikes for sidewalk and curb repairs residents must foot the bill to fix. It now costs $7 per foot for a 4-inch sidewalk, $9 per foot for a 6-inch sidewalk and $26 per linear foot for drop curbs, the curbing along the edge of a driveway apron. The village awarded the bid to Newborn Construction, Inc., located in Center Moriches, to perform the sidewalk/drop curb repairs.
"Why can't this be a little more appealing to the consumer?" Orosz, who said he paid $4,000 (at a rate of $5.75 per foot of 4-inch sidewalk) last year to make the necessary repairs, said. "Now it's up to $7. It's not really a small increment, it's almost a 22 percent increase. If things are going the way they are going, then in about four years it will double. I pay about $4,000 for my sidewalk now and I'm certainly not looking forward to spending $8,000 in four to five years."
Orosz is one of several residents at the forefront of a fight to lift the financial burden on residents to make the repairs and put the responsibility in the village's lap. "Some homeowners are now being forced to pay, through no fault of their own, an exceedingly high amount to repair village-owned public sidewalks located on publicly owned land," Orosz told trustees in 2006, adding that an inequity exists because everyone has different amounts of sidewalk.
He reiterated the fact that some homeowners have no sidewalks while others could have from 240 to 1,600 square feet or more. "This disparity especially discriminates against those homeowners on corner properties," he continued. "I could walk from Franklin Avenue to Hilton Avenue and see no sidewalks. So in those areas, those people will never have to see a bill like this," he said.
When more than a dozen Grove Street residents were cited for violations, Orosz and his neighbors signed a petition requesting that trustees temporarily suspend orders from the Department of Public Works to give them time to explore other alternatives that residents can live with.
Orosz pointed to a program currently in use in New York City which states that one-, two- and three-family homes occupied by the owner whose sidewalks are damaged by curbside tree roots are eligible for free repairs. The $3.4 million pilot program, which began in 2005, makes New York City foot the bill for repairs to sidewalks damaged by tree roots. All city residents have to do is call a local hotline and report the problem.
Mayor Peter Bee said the village's goal is to not have to pay for the sidewalk/curb repairs. "...The current legislation as it is presently written states the homeowner pays that cost and in theory is available to retain his own private contractor to accomplish that. Only in those instances where the homeowner does not do the repair does the village then do the repair and our goal is to certainly have the village cost - which is ultimately assessed against the homeowner - be at a price comparable to what the homeowner would have paid on his/her own ... The price that the village is fixing for sidewalk repair is in the same market price as the homeowner would pay if the homeowner retained a contractor privately... ."