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Tallahassee Has A Crack Problem, But It Might Not Be What You Think

sidewalk work along College Avenue
Regan McCarthy

Commissioners are looking to fill a $4.5 million budget hole while disrupting as few services as possible. Part of that plan involves fixing cracks in the city’s sidewalks.

A crew of city workers is building a frame for part of the sidewalk along College Avenue. Tim Potter manager of operations and construction for underground utilities and public infrastructure says the old sidewalks in the area were beyond repair.

“This was obviously crumbled up. So they had to tear it out to re-pour,” Potter says.

The project is part of an effort to save money by reducing tripping hazards on Tallahassee’s sidewalks

“Each one of these areas right here you see these guys are working on, that was a trip fall hazard,” Potter says.

Potter says his crews fixed more than 1,000 sidewalk hazards last month. And he says the city is continuing to find more areas that need to be addressed.

“We have one guy, he drives around town and he marks out every trip fall hazard he finds. Not only does he mark it out and make a work ticket. He actually paints the sidewalk to notify whomever that there is a trip hazard there and then we can schedule our crews accordingly to go do repairs. In the past we never had a data collection of our sidewalk system. We were in reactive mode. The city was in reactive mode. So we’re taking a proactive approach on this. We’re trying to get ahead of the problems," Potter says.

City officials expect the efforts to save the city at least $100,000 in the coming fiscal year. City Manager Rick Fernandez says that’s because the city won’t pay out as much money for medical expenses when people trip and are injured and its insurance costs might also go down.

“And the one that’s less evident is the fact that the quicker you fix something the less it costs you. So if something starts to deteriorate and you catch it early and you’re able to fix it, you do it at a much lower cost than if that bump becomes a huge crack that goes into the curb and then you have to fix the curb and you’re talking more and more expenses as you go along,” Fernandez says.

The sidewalk plan is just one change in the city manager’s proposed budget. He’s also reworking which jobs are outsourced and which are done in house. And he’s finding more efficiencies within the current workforce. For example he’s recommending two offices in the Renaissance Center move under one umbrella.

“Currently when a customer walks in at the Renaissance Center for a utility transaction if you have any questions or anything you go to a customer service representative who works for the city manager. You get your questions answered or whatever—determine what the bill amount is and then if you have to pay then you have to walk over to a cashier down the hallway that works for the treasurer clerk,” Fernandez says.

Fernandez says he thinks the city could save money and customers could get better service if the two offices were combined. He admits the plan would likely mean a reduction of two positions, but he’s hopeful those can be positions that aren’t currently filled or that could be reduced through attrition. He made recommendations for similar efficiencies in his budget last year and in some cases saw pushback. But he says finding ways for city departments to merge works. And he points to those sidewalk projects as an example. Crews started working on them last year shortly after Fernandez combined the Public Works and underground utilities departments. The city will discuss the proposed budget during a workshop Wednesday.

Follow @Regan_McCarthy

Regan McCarthy is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media. Before coming to Tallahassee, Regan graduated with honors from Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism. She worked for several years for NPR member station WFIU in Bloomington, Ind., where she covered local and state government and produced feature and community stories.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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