Soon you will begin to see orange barrels around town and may wonder to yourself what is going on. The answer is, the city is preparing for its annual street resurfacing program and in advance of the pavement work, failing curbs and gutters are identified for replacement. This may prompt a second question about why the city requires curbs and gutters in the first place. In this article I’ll cover just a few of the reasons why curb and gutter infrastructure is a vital part of our transportation network.
Without curb and gutter, water can seep into the base and subbase of the street, either through surface cracks or from puddles on the roadway shoulders. Over a period of time, base material may erode, leaving nothing to support the pavement above it. Traffic loads then cause the pavement to fail. Curb and gutter provides a concrete wall that holds the granular base material in place and helps prevent water from penetrating the subbase.
Heavy vehicles such as solid waste collection trucks and school buses regularly place heavy loads at the edges of residential streets. Curb and gutter provides support for the edges of the pavement. Without the curb and gutter barrier, traffic and moisture can cause unsightly and potentially hazardous edge failures and rutting.
Streets with curb and gutters also tend to be substantially more economical to maintain over the life of the street than those with just pavement.
A curb contributes to safety by defining the edge of the street for drivers, pedestrians, and children. Curbs show drivers where not to drive, turn or park. They also protect streetlights, fire hydrants, signs and roadway shoulders from vehicle damage.
Curb and gutter also collects storm water runoff from the pavement and from abutting parkways and channels it to inlets and storm sewers. This helps to prevent erosion.
Curbs help keep dirt and litter on the roadway where sweepers can collect it. Curbs also aid snowplow drivers by providing a visual reference during and after light to moderate snowfalls.
Curb and gutter improves the appearance of the city streets. Streets with well-maintained curb and gutter are usually more aesthetically acceptable and provide a solid infrastructure investment.
While residents may understand the need for curb and gutter, they may not understand their financial responsibility when it comes to maintaining this vital infrastructure. Much of that responsibility is outlined in the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) and local codified ordinances. ORC Section 723.011 permits municipalities to require that property owners keep curbs and gutters in repair. This law was adopted in 1962. Sidney City Council previously adopted legislation in 1960 to enact this very same measure. At that time property owners were 100% responsible for this repair.
Fast forward to 2008, City Council amended the legislation to state that the city would be 100% responsible for the maintenance of curb and gutter once installed in the right-of-way, except in certain circumstances. Those circumstances include curbs and gutters adjacent to and in front of driveway and curbs and gutters required by the Planning Commission for site development permits. Now, residents are only responsible for the repair for a small portion of the curb and gutters along their property.
City Council also retained the right to determine the timing of curb and gutter maintenance. The timing of this curb and gutter repair is coordinated with the annual street programs. In addition, City Council adopted engineering standards to outline when repairs would be required.
When the city determines that repairs must be made plans, specifications and cost estimates are prepared and City Council must adopt a resolution of necessity declaring a necessity to proceed. Property owners are notified, via certified mail, that they have curb and gutter that must be repaired.
Property owners may elect to complete the work themselves or hire a private contractor to repair the curb and gutter according to city specifications. Property owners may also elect to have the contractor selected by the city perform the work. Sometimes this option is a more economical route simply because of the economies of scale.
Once the work is complete by the city’s contractor a list of itemized assessments is reported to council and a public notice is published for three weeks in the local newspaper. Property owners then have an additional two weeks to object to the amount of assessment. City Council is then asked to pass legislation formally assessing the properties for the work completed.
Before the assessment list is sent to the Shelby County Auditor for inclusion on property taxes, property owners are given the option to pay the city for the work. If the property owner does not chose to the pay the amount due, the amount is then assessed to the property taxes for each individual property and collected over a five year period. For those who opt to have the amounts assessed, assessment also includes interest and an auditor fee each year for five years.
The writer is the city manager of the city of Sidney.