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The sidewalk in front of 240 Monmouth St. has been in disrepair since it was demolished in December.

INDEPENDENCE — On Aug. 27, The Independence City Council adopted a resolution declaring a nuisance and directing improvements to the sidewalk in front of 240 Monmouth St.

The owner of the property is Independence Venture LLC. Charles Sides, of Salem, is listed as the registered agent in state documents. He also owns Independence Station, which is across the street from 240 Monmouth St.

Sides was in the audience at the meeting.

Tom Pessemier, city manager, cited in a memo that city codes state the abutting property owner is responsible to keep sidewalks in good repair, but also hazardous or defective sidewalks are to be reported to the city manager.

“The property currently has a foreclosure notice posted on the property, and conversations with the property owner show that he is attempting to refinance his ownership,” Pessemier said in the memo. “It has been many months since work has proceeded on the permitting for the sidewalk even after several statements from the property owner that their engineer has been paid and work will continue.”

Pessemier spoke to councilors at the beginning of the meeting about this and other agenda items, saying there were some “important things I think we should cover and make sure that are discussed, especially in a public forum.”

“I wanted to give a report, which is actually required by our municipal court, regarding the sidewalks in front of 240 Monmouth St.,” Pessemier said. “The municipal code requires, before the council consider a resolution, that I give a report relative to the sidewalks there.”

The sidewalks on Monmouth and Second streets were demolished in December 2018 by the property owner, with the anticipation that permits were coming and construction was going to commence.

“It’s my understanding there’ve been some financial issues relative to that property,” Pessemier said. “The developer has not finished the finalizing permits with (the Oregon Department of Transportation) and with the city. That’s been out there for a long time in a state of disrepair and, quite frankly, I have determined that I believe that’s a hazard.”

Pessemier said not having sidewalks at that location — with the pedestrian and other traffic — is unsafe, and he thinks the city should take action on it quickly.

“The city had an agreement with the developer to rebate $300,000 for performance on the building construction and sidewalk construction,” he said. “The period to pay that rebate has expired, so the city plans to use a portion of that money to reconstruct the sidewalk. At least, that’s what we’re proposing to do with the resolution that will be before you later.”

The money for the sidewalk repair was not in the budget, he said. City staff expected to pay the $300,000 before the end of last fiscal year.

The money is in the ending-fund balance of the general fund, Pessemier said.

“I do want to give you advance notice, ... it will either require a budget transfer or supplemental budget in order to use those funds down the road,” he said.

Pessemier said the resolution sets the conditions for the sidewalk to either be repaired by the property owner or through an abatement process by the city.

“Within five days of passing this resolution, we will send a notice to the property owner, who’s on the tax rolls, to make sure that they understand that this was passed,” Pessemier said. “We also are giving them 60 days in order to make those repairs. I don’t know if they will be able to. We’ll certainly have those conversations to see. There’s still some design work that needs to be done.”

Permits still need to be obtained from ODOT and the city, he said.

“If it is isn’t accomplished within 60 days, then the city would work on abating the sidewalk and making sure there is safe passage,” Pessemier said. “We would probably finish up the permitting process for the plans and then do the construction of it. It’s going to be a fairly expensive project.”

In his memo to councilors, Pessemier said, “the assessments of costs are to be declared by ordinance, and then entered into the city lien docket, in the same manner as street liens.”

He told the councilors again that the money for the repairs were not in the budget, so the city would either have to ask for a transfer or a supplemental budget.

“The property owner is here, if you have questions, but I highly recommend that we get this situation taken care of as quickly as possible,” Pessemier said.

Mayor John McArdle asked Sides if he wanted to say anything.

“I’m in agreement,” Sides said from the audience.

Councilor Shannon Corr said she appreciated the sidewalk being called a nuisance, but really it is a safety hazard.

“There’s a bus stop out there,” she said. “I’m worried about people standing out there.”

Pessemier agreed and said it is a hazard and a safety issue.

“You earlier mentioned that the proceeds from the sale of the building had not been allocated to anything,” said Councilor Kathy Martin-Willis. “So those funds are still there that can then be utilized.”

Pessemier confirmed her statement.

“Even though it is not a budgeted item, there are some funds available to assign to the project,” Martin-Willis said.

Pessemier said the $300,000 rebate was broken into two components: $100,000 for the sidewalks and $200,000 for the building.

The rebate period ended a few weeks ago, he said.

“Abatement costs will be recovered through the lien process,” Pessemier said. “Specific amounts are not known, but given the complexity of the construction, the costs will be substantial.”

The city of Independence is working to fulfill a records request for relevant documents by The Itemizer-Observer.

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