By BRIAN LESTER
BLUFFTON — Concerns over the sidewalk project in Bluffton were eased a bit Monday night as Village Council discussed an amendment to the original ordinance that was approved last year.
If the amendment is approved, the village will pay for the cost of installing sidewalks in areas it believes need them, which is a sharp contrast to the original plan in which residents would be forced to pay for the installment of sidewalks on their property.
Letters were sent out last year to 92 residents notifying them that they would have to install sidewalks on their property. The deadline for getting it done had been set for Oct. 1 this year.
Another 97 letters were sent out to residents to notify them they would need to repair or replace the sidewalks on their property. Those residents will still need to make the repairs even if the new ordinance passes.
While the village would agree to pay for the cost of installing new sidewalks, it would turn over the responsibility of maintaining them to the property owners after one year.
The first reading of the amendment was passed on Monday, and the next reading will take place at the April 21 council meeting.
Councilman Joe Selhorst said village Administrator James Mehaffie would develop a plan for the sidewalk project if the ordinance is passed, and it would be discussed both by the Street and Alleys Committee and in a public hearing.
“Our committee would discuss it before it goes to council for a vote,” Selhorst said. “A certain amount of money would be budgeted each year for the project. There could be a year where there isn’t money for the project and we would have to put things off, or a year where we would have a surplus. But the plan would be to spend so much money each year on the project.”
About 25 residents turned out for the meeting on Monday, and it was brought to the council’s attention that a petition had been circulating around the village to oppose the sidewalk plan. As of Monday, there were 180 signatures on it.
Removing trees was among the concerns, but Mehaffie said the plan would not involve getting rid of a bunch of trees for the sake of the project. A couple of citizens were also concerned about taxes being raised if there wasn’t enough money one year to fund the work. But it was pointed out that a tax could not be imposed unless it was put on a ballot and voted on.
“It’s not going be something that is done quickly. A lot of thought will go into the plan and the project before going forward with it,” Mehaffie said. “Not every street is going to need a sidewalk, but the main thing is for the streets we do put them on is for people to be able to get from point A to point B safely.”
Separately, council approved the hiring of two seasonal employees for mowing and maintenance of village properties. Robert Bardertscher will paid $10 per hour and Ken Von Lehmden will paid $8.49 per hour.
Separately, the annual spring cleanup is scheduled to begin on May 17 and end May 26. Dumpsters will be delivered to the Service Department garage on Spring Street on May 16. No tires, batteries, paint or other hazardous materials are allowed to be disposed during the cleanup.