Sidewalk replacement program in Ferndale gets approval

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published July 27, 2022

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FERNDALE — On July 11, the Ferndale City Council approved two items regarding the replacement of sidewalk flags.

During the meeting, the council approved the 2022 Sidewalk Replacement Program and the bid from Luigi Ferdinandi & Son Cement Co. for an estimated $266,700. Construction is slated to take place within the boundaries of Eight Mile Road to West Marshall Street, Woodward Avenue to Livernois Street, Eight Mile to East Hazelhurst Street, and Woodward Avenue to the CN railroad tracks.

The council last discussed the program at its June 27 meeting, tabling the item after hearing concerns from residents during a public hearing. Residents’ main concern was hardships in paying for the replacements. The cost of a sidewalk flag in  need of replacement is passed to the property owner, whether the owner is a resident, business or the city of Ferndale itself.

Department of Public Works Director Dan Antosik said that after construction is complete, the city would get a final cost estimate together and notify the property owners, who can either pay at that time or have it go on their winter taxes.

At the last meeting, the council directed city staff to get more feedback on the Michigan Department of Treasury rules on poverty eligibility and interest rates, as well as explore the feasibility of alternative funding support for residents who are approved for a hardship by the Hardship Review Committee in the fall.

As for the update from the Treasury, Antosik said Ferndale learned recently that the department no longer offered a deferment program as of 2020.

“All of the criteria that the hardship committee has used historically was based on the statute, and the statute is suspended. It’s no longer an option,” he said. “However, because council tabled it and asked us to look into different options, we’ve replaced that with an option that focuses solely on a financial hardship.”

Crediting Community Development Specialist and Assistant Building Official Emily Loomis for finding a solution, Antosik said the city would be using $5,000 annually of Community Development Block Grant funds from its minor home repair program to help subsidize, on a case-by-case basis, payments for property owners.

“Property owners whose gross household income that is characterized by Oakland County’s Community Development Block Grant policy as extremely low or very low, or residential property owners whose assessments are over $500, be granted additional time to pay at an interest rate of a half a percent per month or 6% yearly, if they can establish a hardship when they meet with the hardship committee,” he said. “It’s based on a number of factors, and income does come into play with that.”

According to the city, from the 1,956 properties it inspected, 634 were identified to have deteriorated sidewalks that needed replacement flags. The costs for a 5-by-5-foot and 4-inch thick sidewalk flag is $175, and a 5-by-5-foot and 6-inch thick flag, usually adjacent to the driveway, is $200.

City documents stated the total estimated cost that will be assessed to property owners is $238,155, and the estimated cost to Ferndale for sidewalk replacement along the parks is $22,875.

Council voted to approve the program and contract, both with 4-1 votes. The council member who voted against the items was Councilwoman Laura Mikulski, who told the Woodward Talk that she voted no due to concerns about inflation and the burden of the cost on residents. She stated that the loss of the deferment program was a factor in her vote.

“There was nothing wrong with that contract with the concrete supplier. It was about consistency,” she said. “If I’m not voting for the sidewalk assessments, I’m not voting to accept the contract either.

“I’m very satisfied that we did our due diligence and that DPW provided all the information that we needed. My stance is more a reflection, again, of concerns with inflation being as high as they are and the residents having to bear this unexpected cost at a time when they’re going to bear unexpected costs across the board,” she continued.