Denver’s Neighborhood Sidewalk Repair Program needs some help, and the city’s auditor has laid things out on fixing it.

As we face virus cases spiking all over the country, and we have an alleged leader trying to reverse votes to kidnap an election, perhaps we should think about something less frightening: Let’s focus on sidewalks. 

In the news yesterday, there were stories about the fact that this program had gone quiet. For those of us who attended a program in August 2018, there were about 200-plus people in  Mitchell Hall at the Denver Botanic Gardens. And, they wanted to know more about it. By the end of the meeting, there were many unhappy people, because they did not know that the owners of a home or apartment building would need to pay the freight to fix or replace some parts of sidewalks. 

It wasn’t exactly pitchforks and torches, but residents in the first section (of the 11 sections) in the city were steamed. There were concerns that flagstone sidewalks would be carted off to ruin the historic look of neighborhoods. There were fears that residents would be paying a lot of money. And it was complex. It was, in short, that meeting was a free-for-all. 

Before the program began, I walked through an area of Mitchell Hall looking at boards with information about the program. I asked one of the city workers from the Department of Public Works (now the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, or DOTI) how many inspectors would there be.

The answer was 1. Yes, 1. And in the stories yesterday, that 1 left the position in October or November of 2019. So that’s why I could not follow the progress online about where the inspector was. It was a ghost job.

Even more strange was the fact that the then-public works department did not follow guidelines that comply with the American with Disabilities Act standards. People in wheelchairs, people pushing strollers, people with crutches – not at all addressed with issues that need to be a factor. The city has had a grab bag of sidewalks: some places have none, some have Hollywood curbs (that are not very wide), and some just need repairs. Oh, Denver, what was this about? 

The audit released yesterday was, as one would think, that there are issues here that will take decades to get all of this done. This paragraph helps sum it up from the audit: 

“The audit revealed Transportation & Infrastructure needs to improve the design of the Neighborhood Sidewalk Repair Program. That includes ensuring it complies with Americans with Disabilities Act standards for safe and accessible sidewalks and that it considers equal access to affordability options for homeowners. Additionally, the audit found Transportation & Infrastructure personnel had not effectively implemented, monitored, or evaluated the program to ensure it met its intended goals.”

Yes, the program turned into a ghost. The numerous recommendations from the auditor received a response of “agree” from the DOTI managers. It’s now in their court.

Just a few links: a story on The Denver Channel, yesterday’s Denver Post story on the audit, the audit itself, and a story from 9News in late December 2017. It was a wake-up call, but one might think the holidays took over. 

https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/denver-auditor-sidewalk-repair-program-is-decades-behind-schedule-not-designed-for-ada-compliance

https://www.9news.com/article/news/local/next/should-denver-consider-changing-responsibility-for-sidewalks/73-501220121

2 Replies to “Denver’s Neighborhood Sidewalk Repair Program needs some help, and the city’s auditor has laid things out on fixing it.”

  1. I believe the time has come to starting solving the numerous issues that Auditor, Timothy O’Brien, has found over his time of service. I suggest we make Timothy O’Brien our next mayor.

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    1. Timothy O’Brien is doing important work. He understands the issues, and backs up his work. When I read that the 1 inspector was no longer there, I realized why I could not find any progress on a page on the city’s website. People could follow the inspector’s route. But nothing moved or changed, and I gave up. It seems to me that too many initiatives cannot be handled at the same time. And now: DIA?

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