In response to residents’ complaints about broken sidewalks that may become trip hazards, the Miami Lakes town council and staff are accelerating repair of the concrete walkways as part of its infrastructure maintenance plan.
Many street signs, drains, crosswalks, lights, road markings, park improvements and other elements of the town’s streetscape are nearly 60 years old, Town Manager Edward Pidermann said.
“The cost of annual maintenance of all the infrastructure is about $2.1 million,” Pidermann said. “This year’s budget has about $700,000 dedicated to all of those repairs.”
The council during its Jan. 12 meeting moved sidewalk fixes to the top of the town’s to-do list.
About $74,000 will be spent to replace sidewalks during the next six months in locations that residents have flagged on the town’s app.
The sidewalks become damaged by tree roots that have limited growing space and then dislodge the concrete. Repairs of broken walks have been ongoing, but not at the pace residents want to happen.
People, many of them elderly, have fallen on those cracked or shifted slabs.
From 2010 to 2020, 39 claims were filed against the town and 17 of those resulted in lawsuits, Pidermann said. Most cases were settled, but about 22 were not.
Insurance paid $738,200 in settlements over the past decade.
“The town did not have any direct out-of-pocket expenses,” Pidermann said. “But eventually such claims drive up insurance premiums.”
During the council meeting, Mayor Manny Cid said he was named in one of the cases and urged the council to prioritize sidewalk repairs, which they did in a unanimous vote.
Councilman Jeffrey Rodriguez, an attorney, sponsored the sidewalk repair issue.
“My motion is to address all of the flagged sidewalk repairs that were flagged on our town’s app and use the fund balance reserves in order to address this one-time capital improvement, instead of taking care of it under the multi-year cycle schedule,” Rodriguez said.
Vice Mayor Luis Collazo said, “I’ve seen people fall and I’ve seen them get hurt very badly. Coming from a safety issue, I’ve gotten calls from constituents that their neighbors fell on the sidewalk. We are in a crisis management mode.”
Councilwoman Marilyn Ruano said fixing the condition of the walkways was more important than her proposed pedestrian crosswalk project.
“This trip hazard is probably the biggest problem we have in the town,” Ruano said. “Not only is it a nuisance, but there are many people who have fallen and taken a hit to the face or broken their wrist or something.
“For me, I would prioritize sidewalks over crosswalks,” she said.
Of other infrastructure improvements sought by the council, Pidermann said it will cost $25,000 to replace street signs; $73,000 for speed limit signs; $90,000 for road pavement markings and about $50,000 to fix broken playground equipment and resurface the basketball court at Picnic Park West.
Pidermann said he will present a budget amendment ordinance for councilmembers’ approval in February for those projects.
As for prioritizing the sidewalk repairs, Pidermann told The Miami Laker, “We were chasing problems, and now we want to get ahead of them.
“This is not a cure all,” Pidermann said. “This is a kickstart, the initial push. We need to address how to fund infrastructure maintenance for the long haul.”