City sidewalks: Need for work understood, but patience is vital

Williamsport is an old city with old properties and old sidewalks.

Many of the older properties were blighted and, since 2008, the city has reduced those numbers from 188 to 12.

The administration of Mayor Gabriel J. Campana is now trying to repeat that success regarding sidewalks.

Many are in a deteriorating condition that puts them in violation of codes.

A nuisance task force, which included sight-impaired and those using scooters and wheelchairs to navigate on sidewalks without having to use the street, found sidewalk deterioration to be a problem.

Codes officers walking sidewalks in the Central Business District and East Third Street Gateway project area found 200 property owners were in violation.

So there’s obviously a problem.

And there are legal issues associated with the problem.

The city can be sued for issues associated with sidewalks that are not up to code. So can the property owners.

Unfortunately, most property owners in the city do not have discretionary money set aside for sidewalk repairs.

At an open house last week, city codes administrator Joe Gerardi said residents in need of making repairs to or replacing sidewalks would be given six to eight months to make the effort, find a contractor or show they are going to fix them.

We would hope so.

The work is necessary, but it’s also a costly, unfunded, mandated expense to property owners, many of whom cannot afford the cost.

In this case, patience is not just a virtue, but a necessity if the city is going to be as successful in eliminating deteriorating sidewalks as it was in eliminating blighted property.