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Monday, December 7, 2009

Tree-Sidewalk Update: Trees Pretty Close... Just Like City and Contractors?

On my way to class, I swung by 721 N. Catherine, site of six mighty firs threatened by the city's proposed round of sidewalk installation for the coming year. I was curious: just how close are the trees to the proposed walkway?

Darn close.
View east, toward intersection of 7th St. and Catherine Ave., Madison, SD (Click photo to enlarge)

I can see the Gwynnes' problem: we'd need to strip a lot of branches just to make room for a paving stone walkway, like what Ms. Schave recommends, right next to the curb.

Big fir trees on north side of 721 N. Catherine, Madison, SD (Click photo to enlarge)

The trees do form a good windbreak, protecting the house from the stiff north winds on the western edge of Madison. Given the electric rate increases in town, I'd want to keep any energy-saving advantage I had.

In other news from the street, I checked out Mr. Gilbert's complaint that a sidewalk on his West Avenue property (which is east of Catherine Ave.) "will lead to a dead end as 7th Street does not continue through." It's not quite a "dead end": to the east, 7th Steeet makes a T with Chicago Ave., which heads straight north to the elementary school.

But here's where I sympathize completely with Mr. Gilbert: He notes that the city ordinance requires "All work to be constructed by licensed contractors in accordance with standard City of Madison specifications..." (clause 8 in each of the City's sidewalk ordinances).

Last year, my brother and his hired man installed a sidewalk all by themselves. Is there any reason the city should prohibit a couple enterprising fellas with a skid steer and some forms from doing their own work? I can understand the requirement to build sidewalks for public safety, but the requirement to hire an expensive contractor when a homeowner is perfectly capable of doing the work himself sounds like more favoritism for the city's chosen business buddies.

Also on tonight's City Commission agenda, on the very last page of the packet: Craig Williams' application for a Sidewalk Builder's license. Fee $20; required bond, $500. Brad, consider submitting your application!


  1. Some sidewalks have extreme bends and curves going around the trees. Many shapes and half circles around them. We did do our own but the city wanted us to use a contractor to get it done faster. I would really prefer that the city pay attention to these awful gravel roads in town first. They need to be doing some refurbishing of their own. There shouldn't be one gravel road in the town. If we hadn't done our own sidewalk they said they would do it and add it to our tax as a special assessment. They also informed us this year (after the sidewalk was done) that the trees were too low to the sidewalk. Can't beat that can you.


  2. I Understand your point about allowing property owners to install their own sidewalks. However I disagree with your assessment. Installing a sidewalk isn't rocket science, but there are several technical aspects to consider such as location, compaction of gravel, elevation, slope to the curb. In order to avoid the unfortunate circumstance of the City making a property owner remove an entire length of sidewalk because it was installed improperly, it makes sense to only allow certified/registered contractors to install them in the first place. It is assumed these contractors understand the City specifications and expectations. This is beneficial for two reasons 1)the administration of the sidewalk program is more efficient for the City because they don't have to educate each property owner on how to properly install a sidewalk 2) it saves the property owner from the costly task of removing and replacing the sidewalk if it is installed improperly. The bottom line is that it puts the work in the hands of the professionals. It may be more costly...but in theory it assures that the project is completed right the first time. This comment is way too long...so I will stop now.

  3. We got the "specs", installed the sidewalk properly and it was just fine. We aren't professional sidewalk (cement) contractors but we aren't idiots. Sounds like you don't want anyone doing their own work. That's would include a lot of people who do their own plumbing, electricity, remodeling, etc. We've done several sidewalks of our own and knew what we had to do. Don't discourage property owners from doing their on work.



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