Wavy sidewalk causes waves of anger in Chatham

Residents are unhappy about a new sidewalk that some believe looks like an amusement park ride. Ward 6 Coun. Michael Bondy says something needs to be done to fix it, but Chatham-Kent administration said the sidewalk meets all Ontario provincial standards and accessibility standards.

Complaints came immediately after sidewalks were installed on Coverdale Street, three weeks ago

Residents are unhappy about a new sidewalk that some believe looks like an amusement park ride. 2:15

The new sidewalk on Coverdale Street in Chatham is just three weeks old. But the municipality's already been slammed with complaints from angry residents, because the sidewalk isn't flat.

"The sidewalk, pretty wavy, goes up and down and up and down, hills and valleys," said Chatham-Kent Ward 6 Coun. Michael Bondy.

The sidewalk was installed during an annual sidewalk program, but it looks much different than other ones in Chatham-Kent. Bondy said he's personally received a number of complaints from people who live and who walk down Coverdale Street.

Bondy lives close to the street and said he's walked down it many times, explaining that the area was flat before.

"It seems to be a real mystery," he said.

On a lighter note, Bondy said kids may like it because it looks like a skate park. More seriously, however, he said the sidewalk could be dangerous for people who use walkers.

"It's not as bad as the pictures look, but there's definitely a grade up and down," he said.

The new sidewalk has neighbours raising their concerns. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

He would like to see the sidewalk fixed, because said "it's a liability for the municipality. We have a wavy sidewalk."

"This is basically a screw up and it's the city's responsibility," said Bondy. "I can't say that we can leave it. Personally, I wouldn't want to be on the legal team if we left this. I'm sure this will be rectified, because obviously taxpaying residents may expect relatively flat sidewalks."

Difficult project

A representative for Chatham-Kent said building Coverdale Street's sidewalk was a challenge, because it is a pre-existing subdivision with unique grades in the driveways and front lawns.

Chris Thibert, director of engineering and transportation for Chatham-Kent, said the driveways are very steep approaching the road, while front lawns are more elevated. 

"We basically were faced with two different challenges to try and retrofit a sidewalk into this developed neighbourhood," said Thibert.

He said builders could make everything level, which would require them to match the grade of the driveway and the front yard's elevation.

However, Thibert said that would create a sharp drop-off, which could force them to put in a retaining wall or some major front yard modifications.

Alternatively, builders could also work with the natural landscape and use the "light wave effect."

"What we made sure of is that the sidewalks still meet and satisfy provincial standards for grades and for slopes, as well as the accessibility standards for Ontario," he said.

'No plans to change anything'

Residents have expressed their dissatisfaction with the Coverdale Street sidewalk on social media, as well as phones calls to Chatham-Kent administration.

"It's different," said Ruth Wilson. "I have a friend, it bothers her legs. I'm concerned about the ice."

Thibert said the municipality is discussing and meeting with residents.

"It's different," says Ruth Wilson. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

"There are no plans to change anything or to fix or resolve anything, as there is really no concern with the orientation of the sidewalk with respect to risk and liability on behalf of the municipality," Thibert said.

The next time the road may see further improvements isn't for eight to 10 years, when the municipality plans on adding sewers, water mains and new curbs.

"Then we will definitely reconsider the alignment of the sidewalk at that time, to make it a little bit more flat," he said.

As for potential slip and falls, Thibert said everyone, regardless of the location, should be cautious. He added that there are risks even on flat sidewalks.

"There is a lot of steeper sidewalk sections throughout Chatham Kent that really push the limits of the Ontario provincial standards and accessibility standards," he said.

Low bid process not to blame

The project was awarded to the lowest bidder, J.C.S. Construction Inc. from Windsor, as part of the municipality's annual sidewalk program.

J.C.S.'s bid was the lowest, coming in at $832,330.71. The second-lowest bid was $1,090,748.60.

Thibert said the price wouldn't have changed the outcome of the sidewalk, because the plan was not a total reconstruction.

Coun. Michael Bondy said the council's policy is to approve the lowest bid, so long as it fulfills the set criteria.

Bondy said council has contested this policy in the past. Council has the ability to determine that a job is substandard and have builders fix it, but leave the responsibility to administration.

Residents have made their concerns known to the municipality, but so far there are no immediate plans to fix it. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

J.C.S. Construction is in the process of receiving payment for its work on the Coverdale Street sidewalk, but Chatham-Kent will withhold some funds for deficiencies.

"That's establishing the grass, establishing the cleaning up of the other works adjacent to the sidewalk and just making sure that it is going to be sufficient for one year following the construction," Thibert said.

Council could pass a motion to have the sidewalk fixed, but Thibert said he would advise them that it does meet the guidelines of the Ontario provincial standards and accessibility standards that they follow and adhere to on all projects.

"At the end of the day, it is council's direction, it is council's decision should they want to implement or have any changes out there... I'll leave that decision with them," he said.


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