by Paul Adler, KY3 News / Follow Paul on Facebook, Twitter @KY3Pad
10:37 PM CDT, May 3, 2012
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The City of Springfield paid out more than $640,000 in lawsuit payments and in claims last year. Some of those claims were for as little as $125 for lost property, but one lawsuit over a poor intersection design cost the city $420,000. A lawsuit like that is just one factor that can impact a program like the city’s sidewalk repair effort.
Sidewalks are the arteries of life for David Dargin, who uses a motorized wheelchair. The 50-year-old man has a disease that causes severe fatigue and blood clotting in his legs.
“I can walk short distances, but, if I've got to go somewhere, I’ve got to use the chair,” he said. “It's sad. I broke my wheel up two blocks."
Big cracks in the sidewalk or uneven pavement can derail Dargin’s life. Fixing the chair can take three to four weeks, and it's happened twice this spring. He's filed a claim with the city for the repair work.
“I didn't get to do nothing,” said Dargin. “My wheelchair was gone."
It's not like the city isn't pouring money into the problem. The worst of the worst gets ripped out and replaced. In its last inventory, however, the city found it had 575 miles of sidewalk and, to fix all the problems with all the sidewalks in the city, it would cost $24 million.
“We've all got problems out there and not nearly enough money to address them. It's the same way all over the country,” said Phil Broyles, director of Springfield Public Works.
Cash for concrete comes from the transportation fund, a pool of money that fixes sidewalks, but it’s also used to fill potholes and repair traffic lights if they get knocked out. So, any number of factors could take money out of that account. The biggest hit in 2011 was a lawsuit against the city that wrapped up with a $175,000 bill.
“If sidewalks stop deteriorating today, it would take us 24 years to get everything done," Broyles said.
For Dargin, it's not about getting big dollars. He just wants large cracks fixed. He says the city has leveled one spot already. On another, he filed a complaint to get repair work done.
“You're afraid to go up the sidewalk because you're afraid you're going to bend another wheel. Really take a look at the sidewalks and just think if you were in a chair, and see if you'd want to wheel over that,” he said.
In the first couple months of 2012, some 20 requests have been filed with the city to repair a section of sidewalk. Broyles said the city does make it a priority to repair a sidewalk that’s used frequently by disabled people.
You can file a request online with the city or by phone at (417) 864-1965.
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