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Some residents receive short notice for repair bills as city makes repairs at 1,200 sites
By Tom Kertscher of the Journal Sentinel
Mary Kilpatrick said she received a letter Tuesday notifying her that she'll have to pay the city $700 in November for sidewalk work outside her
When she came home for lunch Friday, the sidewalks were already torn up.
Why, if the Common Council approved the work June 1, didn't the letters go out for two months, Kilpatrick asked.
She said that had she known such a big bill was on the way, she would have done $700 less in home renovations that were recently finished.
"In this economy and with the holidays (coming), I don't have $700 in my back pocket right now," she said.
Mary Jo Lange, the city engineer and director of public works, said property owners usually get three to six months' notice about special assessments they must pay for sidewalk repairs.
But after paying a settlement earlier this year in the trip-and-fall suit, the city changed its standards for evaluating sidewalks, Lange said.
Usually the city repairs sections of walk in front of about 300 properties each year, but this year it's 1,200, she said.
Notices were slow because they are prepared by one city employee, who sent them out in batches and had to handle many calls from residents along the way, Lange said.
Moreover, the city decided late in the process to repair sidewalks near schools, which meant that residents such as Kilpatrick got even less notice.
"It's overwhelming right now for the Engineering Department," Lange said.
The total cost of the repairs is $700,000, most of which is paid by residents and the rest by the city.
Residents can pay in two installments, one when the bill is due and the other in 2011, but 4.3% interest is added.
Kilpatrick said she wishes the city would have explained in the letters why so little notice was given, even if she was impressed by how quickly it can hop on a job.
"I wish government was this fast at a lot of other stuff," she said.