Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Where the sidewalk ends

I listed "Ann Arbor Sidewalk Repairs" on my "You're On Notice!" board, and a few people have asked me what I was talking about, so here's the story (which is probably all too familiar for you, if you live here).

I'm not sure how long this has been "on the books," but the city has recently decided to enforce City Codes 47 and 49. (And if I'm getting any of this wrong, and someone knows the correct info, please feel free to point it out. I didn't go down to City Hall to study this $#!+, okay?)

According to the city's website, those codes "require property owners to properly maintain the sidewalks and public walkways adjacent or abutting their property for the use of the public."

Sounds good, right? To ensure walkers, joggers, old people, and kids with tricycles don't trip or topple over (especially outside of your house), sidewalks shouldn't have slabs jutting out of the ground unevenly.

I just thought those sidewalks were city property. When you were a kid, did you ever get in a fight with a friend, and told him to get off your property? Then he'd stand on the sidewalk and say, "This is the government's property, not yours!" And you thought he was right. Of course, you were, like, 10 years old. But that's one of the first things that came to mind when six slabs on our sidewalk - each of them pushed up by tree roots - were "flagged."

The other, as you might imagine, was how much this whole thing was going to cost. To quote the city's website again, "Based upon 2004 prices, the removal and replacement costs for a slab were estimated between $150-$225." I don't think we had $1,000 in that coffee can above the refrigerator.

Fortunately, it didn't cost quite that much. The contractor we hired cut us a discount, based on the number of slabs we needed repaired. Still, I don't think I'll be replacing my laptop any time soon. And I could be returning to the days of Ramen Noodles as my primary meals.

I'm not sure why Ann Arbor decided that every homeowner had to fix the "bad" sidewalks outside their houses NOW. Grandpa of Ann Arbor has a conspiracy theory that's a tad too xenophobic to be believed, but it's worth noting for entertainment value:

If you haven't noticed, some city hall idiot has decided that we have to fix all sidewalks in AA to keep the aliens (possible illegal) in town working. I think it is a Public works project to support the cement workers (read hispanic). Unfortunately it is costing homeowners on average @ $1000.00. Great timing Huh? worst financial times in decades and city hall decides to hit all of us townies with a financial burden. Is anyone running on a 'save the old sidewalks' platform?

(Via ann arbor is overrated)

So a lot of neighborhoods currently look like construction zones, with piles of dirt and concrete slabs strewn across several curbside areas, and power shovels (no one calls them "steam shovels" anymore, do they?) and cement trucks blocking streets while they do their work. It's a bit difficult to navigate. And it looks like $#!+.

Here's how the front of our house is looking right now. The yellow tape is a nice touch. Not just for safety concerns, but for aesthetic tastes, as well. Now we don't just have a giant hole abutting the front yard, but it also looks like we killed someone there. I'm expecting Gil Grissom to show up any time now. (Unfortunately, the hole isn't quite deep enough to hide a body in. Yes, that crossed my mind, so I checked.)

If you're a cement contractor in Ann Arbor, you're having a wonderful summer. Look for them at the bar - drinks might be on them. And say hi to the person tending bar or waiting your table. It might be a homeowner who had to take a second job to pay for this mess.

One final note: Writing about sidewalk repairs in front of my house has to signify that I am now indisputably old.