“We’ve had a lot of trip-and-fall injuries,” said District 8 City Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean, who represents part of Buckhead. “The city doesn’t have a dedicated source of funding to repair and install sidewalks.”
In the past five years, the city of Atlanta had six lawsuits involving broken sidewalks and doled out $3.26 million, according to Valerie Bell-Smith, a city spokeswoman, but most of that total comes from one case.
“For fiscal year 2012, [the] Department of Public Works’ operating general fund budget for materials and supplies was $1.2 million,” Bell-Smith said. “Approximately $320,000 of that was expended to-wards concrete repairs to include sidewalks along with curbs, [Americans for] Disabilities Act ramps and driveways.”
Adrean said last week the sidewalk situation is “no different” than Atlanta’s traffic issues because there is simply no primary source, she said, to maintain either issue. However, if the [T-SPLOST] passes this summer, she said it will help with the state of sidewalks because it will provide local governments with some money.
“Fifteen percent of that money can be spent on local governments on local priorities. For me, it would make sense to spend it on sidewalks,” Adrean said.
She said if the T-SPLOST does not pass, her “Plan B” is to work with state legislators to allow local governments to have partial penny taxes.
“Right now, we have an entire penny [each] devoted to MARTA and the schools, and an entire penny devoted to the sewer systems.” Adrean said. “If we can split those pennies, maybe we would have a dedicated source for infrastructure.”
Additionally, Sally Flocks, president and CEO of Pedestrians Educating Drivers on Safety in Atlanta, said the current sidewalk ordinance is “dysfunctional’ and “unfair to property owners” because it delegates responsibility to them for broken sidewalks.
“It is probably unenforceable, it has not been enforced and it is inconsis-tently applied,” Flocks said. “They [the city] need to quit pretending property owners [are] a source of funding.”
Flocks said the most re-cent and expensive case of a blind man who reported broken sidewalks to the city three times before he fell and severely hurt himself cost the city $3 million, as opposed to the $2,000 it would have cost to repair the sidewalk.
“He was getting around independently and had a career,” Flocks said. “Now, he needs a walker or wheelchair.”
Flocks said she believes a bond referendum would be the best solution, and District 7 Councilman Howard Shook, who represents part of Buckhead, said that is what he expects Mayor Kasim Reed to propose if the T-SPLOST fails.
“The citizens of Atlanta would be asked whether or not they would be willing to support the city selling bonds, and the proceeds would be used to start catching up on failing infrastructure,” Shook said. “Voters would be paying an annual sum as a part of their property taxes.”
Shook said 2000 was the last time a bond offering was approved.
“Of course the economy was better then,” he said. “The problem is, the longer you go, the more deteriorated the sidewalks and bridges and stormwater systems get.”
Yearly sidewalk lawsuits:
o 2008: $212,000 for two lawsuits
o 2009: $10,500 for one lawsuit
o 2010: $ 7,000 for one lawsuit
o 2011: $30,000 for one lawsuit
o 2012 (to date): $3 million for one lawsuit