Improving Kalispell’s Sidewalks

By Beacon Staff

Can an elderly person or a mother pushing a stroller safely navigate specific sidewalks in Kalispell neighborhoods?

The answer is increasingly “no,” according to ongoing inventory assessments by city staff.

Kalispell’s sidewalks aren’t getting any younger or safer, and the city is continuing to encourage homeowners to maintain their cement walkways through a cost-sharing program that divides the financial burden by 50 percent.

“We want to assist landowners in replacing sidewalks that are unsafe,” said Keith Haskins, a senior civil engineer for the public works department.

“There’s a lot of sidewalks in the city that are unsafe due to roots that have pushed sidewalk up or is just so old they’re tripping hazards. Because the landowners are on the hook to maintain sidewalks, this is a way for the city to assist in that process.”

Kalispell has specific funds available for homeowners who wish to improve individual sidewalks, curbing and driveway and alley approaches. The cost-sharing program has been in place for several years and was implemented as a way to address deteriorating walkways, especially in some of the city’s historic neighborhoods. Recent studies in the city’s core have identified worsening conditions, according to the planning department.

“There’s a lot of sidewalks that need to be replaced,” Haskins said.

Each year the public works department accepts applications from contractors in a competitive bidding process for sidewalk work. The lowest bid is accepted and the city council approves a new contract each year.

Once homeowners apply for the 50/50 cost-sharing program, city staff will provide engineering and inspection services for the replacement project at no cost to the property owner. If a project is qualified, the city will pay for half of its cost. Funds are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. Homeowners can make a one-time payment or pay over an eight-year period. The payment is added to homeowners’ property taxes for the following year’s tax bill.

“It’s a really nice program for people to partner with the city to improve their neighborhood and improve safety,” Public Works Director Susie Turner said.

“As you’re walking through neighborhoods that have nice sidewalks, that improves just the overall neighborhood feeling. With this program we can take that step to start taking care of our neighborhoods.”

For more information about the 50/50 cost-sharing program, contact the public works department at 758-7720 or visit staff at City Hall, 201 First Ave. E.

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