October 22, 2021

Sidewalk fixes gain traction

Cortland looks at upgrades using anticipated federal aid

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Laura Eaton walks down Port Watson Street in Cortland on Wednesday. The city’s Common Council has discussed how it might use federal funding it expects to receive, including replacing or repairing sidewalks to help people like Eaton, who injured herself in a fall on an uneven sidewalk

Laura Eaton is a big proponent of Cortland using federal money the city received earlier this year to fix city sidewalks, especially considering her fall in October.

Eaton, who walks with a cane and has had multiple surgeries on her legs, said she was walking on the morning of Oct. 22 along Pomeroy Street when she slipped and fell on a raised part of the sidewalk partially covered by leaves. She ended up with a small head injury and a few dislocated fingers.

“The sidewalks, needless to say, are atrocious,” she said Wednesday.

Sidewalks were one of the areas Cortland Common Council members said Tuesday they would like to see funded from the $1 million the city is scheduled to receive this year and another $1 million next year.

News of funding for the city came in March following the signing of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. In total, the city expects to receive $2.05 million.

At a meeting Tuesday, aldermen shared areas they would like to see money spent on.

“The No. 1 complaint I get from constituents is about sidewalks so I’d like us to get money into our sidewalks and not trip anyone,” Alderwoman Kathryn Silliman (D-2nd Ward) said.

She said this would benefit everyone.

Alderman Bruce Tytler (D-3rd Ward) suggested spending money on upgrading broadband throughout the city and Alderwoman Jacki Chapman (D-5th Ward) suggested body cameras for police.

What the money can actually be spent on though will be seen as full details haven’t come out yet, said Mack Cook, the city director of administration and finance.

Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin said the council should prioritize areas in the city budget that had to change and account for items such as personal protection equipment and other COVID-related funding.

Money should also be spent on departments such as the Cortland Youth Bureau and Department of Public Works, which also lost funding last year, he added.

Replacing and improving sidewalks would be a benefit to city residents, especially those who have a disability or require a cane, said Aaron Baier, the executive director of Access to Independence, an organization that provides resources and advocates for people with disabilities.

“For somebody who uses a wheelchair, a lip of half an inch can impede access,” he said.

Eroding curb cuts as well can make it hard for people with disabilities to travel, too.

Eaton said she has to pay special attention to cracks and other broken parts of sidewalks when she walks from her Port Watson Street apartment as she has had 11 surgeries on her knees. That can be further complicated when there are leaves covering raised parts of the sidewalk or snow preventing walkable access.

Baier said that if the city does spend money on sidewalks, it can be for both busier areas downtown, but also in residential areas.

Additionally, he said he would like to see more accessibility-based infrastructure, such as more talking crosswalk signals.

“If the plan is to invest in residential sidewalks” along with main city ones, Baier said, ”it would help make our community more accessible, inclusive and easy to navigate.”