July 11, 2017

Carroll’s City Council continued its attempt Monday to close cracks in Carroll’s sidewalk policies with an ordinance that places more responsibility on homeowners.

The reworded ordinance places the responsibility of maintaining a sidewalk and the liability for an injury on a cracked sidewalk on the homeowner, similarly to rules already in place requiring homeowners to remove snow and ice from their sidewalks.

State law requires homeowners to clear snow and ice, but if cities want to hold residents liable for sidewalk maintenance not related to winter weather, a specific ordinance needs to be drafted, City Attorney David Bruner said.

“It makes sense from the city point of view — we’re trying to eliminate or at least minimize liability for the city,” he said. “I know there’s a number of cities around the state that have made this type of amendment. We’re not the first, nor will we be the last to make the change.”

In particular, the ordinance amendment requires homeowners to adhere to Americans with Disabilities Act standards in sidewalk maintenance, which addresses cracks, uneven sidewalks and more. Homeowners who want to be proactive in checking and repairing their sidewalks can contact the city for details about the act’s requirements.

The city is considering implementing a sidewalk-repair program in the coming years, which could involve hiring an additional city staff member to work with homeowners and contractors on inspections and repairs — but in the meantime, council members hope the ordinance change will encourage homeowners to keep their sidewalks in good shape.

“Residents know it’s a part of their responsibility,” council member Carolyn Siemann said at a past work session.

“But if we could provide an impetus — I think changing the ordinance is a really good idea.”

In other news, council:

— Voted 3-3, with Mayor Eric Jensen breaking the tie in favor of the vote, to continue with a project with the Daily Times Herald to create videos promoting the city.

— Recruited the Parks and Recreation Department to assess whether a trail connecting Veterans Park to 30th Street should be on- or off-road, as the city prepares to apply for a Resource Enhancement and Protection grant to continue trail projects.

— Approved liquor licenses for the Carroll Chamber and Carroll Young Professionals’ CarrollFest, a HyVee customer-appreciation day event hosted by Commercial Savings Bank and a private wedding.