Monmouth council discusses sidewalk improvements

MONMOUTH — Improving sidewalks was the subject of a long Monmouth City Council discussion Nov. 7 in a work session that followed the regular council meeting.

“While Monmouth has very good sidewalks compared to many cities,” City Manager Scott McClure said in a report, “there are gaps around town and sidewalk sections that are not in the best condition.”

He said options were:

• Proactive enforcement of maintenance standards, which “could be a burden to property owners.”

• A project with one contractor taking care of multiple private sidewalk repairs, with the property owner paying the bill "but hopefully at a reduced rate."

• A 50-50 program in which the city would pay half based on certain criteria being met. McClure said that although Monmouth previously did not have the funds to do this, there could be additional funding from state-shared revenues.

He told the council the staff time needed to coordinate any of these options would have to be considered.

Councilor Byron Shinkle noted that one frequent problem with improving sidewalks involves ripping out adjacent trees. McClure said taking a root out could help but also could destabilize the tree.

Councilor Thomas Steinke said that by state law, sidewalks are the responsibility of the homeowner. He added that there should be no liability on the city, because whoever trips on a sidewalk is tripping on private property.

The council agreed to take time to study sidewalk issues.

Also at the work session, the council discussed the local improvement district request for South Warren Street. Russell Cooper, public works director, mentioned options for the city to manage the project with homeowners paying for it.

Beehives were another topic of the session. The council reviewed a proposed ordinance for conditions and limitations for keeping honeybees in Monmouth. No more than two hives would be permitted on any lot or parcel; all portions of hives would have to be kept clean and in good repair; hives and equipment not in active use would not be kept in the open or accessible to bees; and bees would be used only for personal, family, and household purposes, not for commercial purposes.

The council took no final action at the regular meeting, but heard McClure announce the hiring of Suzanne Dufner as community development director.

Dufner oversees community and economic development activities of the city. It involves reviewing development applications; seeing that city growth plans are up to date; and promoting tourism, historic preservation, parks and recreation, and Tree City USA efforts.

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