There is help for city residents to fix sidewalks, curbs, gutters

I hope everyone had a fun and eventful Fourth of July weekend! It’s a great time to get together and celebrate our Great Country’s Birthday.
 I had to sit this one out as I came down sick last week and am just getting back to the office today. So, Cathy and I just laid low. It was the first time we have missed the fireworks and the festivities. From what I understand, Rock the Park and the fireworks display were particularly good this year!
 There were many other events going on this weekend, and I want to say thank you to all of the organizations and individuals who take the time and effort to put these events together and
make them work. Without you, Weiser would just be a place to live and shop. You make it so much more!
 Also, I want to say thank you to those of you who come and attend these events. Sharing in experiences is what makes us a community and makes Weiser such a great place to live, work, and play!
 Switching gears, I would like to talk about sidewalks for a little bit. One of the things I have learned in serving on the hospital board is the importance of improving the health of the overall community, not just treating people’s condition when they come through the door. 
 We tend to lead better and happier lives when we do things that keep us well rather than just treat problems as they arise. Naturally, staying active promotes wellness and walking is and easy pleasant way of staying active.
 However, as most of us are painfully aware, in many parts of town the sidewalk situation is one that could use some serious consideration. As you know, many of our sidewalks are as old as the town. Old construction methods, wear and tear, and certain types of trees, whose roots tend to lift the ground, have not been kind to our sidewalks.
 I would love to say that the City has the means and wherewithal to simply go in and repair or replace existing sidewalks. However, in Idaho, even though the sidewalks are legally part of the street right-of-way, by law, the responsibility for upkeep is on the homeowner. To complicate things further, the Idaho State Constitution specifically prohibits using public funds from being used to assist businesses and individuals with improvements, repairs, or investment to their property for their benefit.
 Outside grant funds can be used to improve sidewalks but finding these funds, except for specialized projects, is difficult to say the least. Unfortunately, many homeowners may have a hard time justifying the sizable one-time cost of sidewalk improvement without attractive financing available.
 So, even though sidewalks have been on my mind since getting into office, solutions have been a bit difficult to come by.
 However, I have been checking into a different type of funding that would allow homeowners who need or would like to make improvement to their sidewalks to be able to do so over time with something called a Local Improvement District or LID.
 The idea is that property owners agree to have improvements made, which can be contracted through the City. A bond is issued to pay for the contracting and services. The bond has a lower interest rate than a home-equity line or other type of personal financing because it is considered a public debt. The payment is added to the real estate taxes to be repaid over a 10-year period (maybe longer, still checking on this one). For those who pay their taxes and insurance with their house payment, the sidewalk is paid for as part of the house payment.
 What this does, is allow the property owner the advantage of the perks of public financing and still stay within what Idaho law allows.
 Part of what makes this program so attractive is that the homeowner is able to work individually with the contractor for what improvements the homeowner specifically wants and/or needs on the property. This is not a one-size-fits-all, take-it-or-leave-it, everybody-gets-the-same thing solution. The individual project is tailored to the homeowner’s needs and desires. This can include curb and gutter and maybe even driveways. 
 Before any work is done, a firm bid is given to the property owners by the contractor before the homeowner makes the final decision. This leaves the owner in control of the scope of the project, the cost, and the outcome. 
 There are quite a few more steps to go before an LID would or could be in place. However, I just wanted you to know what my thinking is and the research that has been going on. 
 Hopefully, with the City Council’s blessing and your support, we can make Weiser an even better place to
go for a nice walk.

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Signal American

18 E. Idaho St.
Weiser, ID 83672
PH: (208) 549-1717
FAX: (208) 549-1718
 

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