QUINCY -- Cracked, chipped and uneven sidewalks may be a thing of the past in Quincy once a contractor hired by the city completes more than 154 sidewalk projects throughout the city as part of the multi-million package that includes dozens of street and alleyway resurfacing projects, replacement of sewer and water lines, and other public infrastructure projects.
In total, the 45,378 square feet of sidewalks will be replaced as part of the sidewalk specific portion of the infrastructure project.
On Monday, the Quincy City Council approved a $1.094 million contract with Quincy-based business Rees Construction Company, who will complete the sidewalk and curb projects. A date for when construction will begin on these sidewalks has not been announced.
Director of Engineering and Utilities Jeffrey Conte said additional sidewalks may also be addressed as part of other sewer, water and street projects included in the $33 million infrastructure package.
The list of sidewalks, which was released earlier this month, was compiled using long standing work orders submitted by the Quincy City Council to the city's central services department.
"Our efforts to address a lot of the sidewalks on the list are long over due," said Alderman Eric Entrup, R-1. "While some of the sidewalks have had work orders submitted within the last year, others have been on the list for five, six, seven years or longer. We have such a backlog because our concrete crew is simply not able to get to every sidewalk every year. Hopefully, we are able to get caught up this year and never have such a backlog again."
Alderman Richie Reis, D-6, agreed.
"I think this is the best way for the city to get a clean slate and get the majority of the sidewalks on the to-do list done," Reis said.
City officials say the work orders languished on the department's to-do list as the five city employees assigned to maintaining the city's sidewalks were reassigned to battle flooding and other projects in the city.
Multiple members of the city's elected board stressed that a great many of the sidewalks on the list are perilous for residents.
"I think having good sidewalks is very important especially when you consider all of the people who use them," said Alderman Tom Ernst, R-3. "We have families who walk, school children, postal carriers, and what I would call newspaper kids who either bike or walk on them. We also have an elderly population in a lot of places in this city, and that is a population that also gets out and walks, whether it is one block or two blocks, they get out and walk. With it being dark out now, they may not always be able to see the cracks or raised parts of the sidewalks. This will help make the sidewalks safe for everybody."
The news of smoother sidewalks was welcome news to residents in the 800 block of Madison Street, where city officials plan to replace more than 432 square feet of sidewalk. In that neighborhood, there are nearly a dozen children who say they use the sidewalks daily as a place to ride their bicycles and skateboards.
Residents say they were disappointed to learn that sidewalks in the 900 block of Madison, which they say are in equally as bad of shape, were not included.
Also celebrating the announcement of the sidewalk project list was Mark Geissler, who works as the chaplain at Horizons Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry.
Plans announced by the city include adding 475 square feet of sidewalk to the north side of the 700 block of York Street, which is the same block as Horizons Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry.
Officials there say the addition of a sidewalk is badly needed, especially because a vast majority the patrons of the soup kitchen and food pantry arrive on foot, walking from their nearby homes or from the city bus terminal that is half a block away.
"You can obviously imagine that having improved sidewalks would not only be welcomed by the demographics that we serve but would be a welcome addition to the entire community," said Mark Geissler, who works as a chaplain at Horizons.
Another example of this is 800 block of Spring Street, where the concrete sidewalk has crumbled and in some places has been replaced by a rock path. This block is adjacent to the Blessing Hospital campus.
Elsewhere in the city, some of the sidewalks included on the list, such as 1101 N. Chestnut, 700 Kentucky Street, and 819 Kentucky Street, are replacing remnants of cobblestone sidewalks, which some are important reminders of a bygone era of the city's history.
In the row of businesses in the 800 block of Kentucky, business owners and staff say they don't want the brick pavers replaced especially considering the neighborhood's inclusion in the city's historic South Side German Historic District.
While some of the sidewalk projects are focused on maintaining the city's existing network of sidewalks, Conte said the list also includes creating connections between sidewalks. This is the case in the 1700 block of Maple Street, where an existing sidewalk abruptly stops and starts, leaving four homes on that block without a sidewalk.
It is a similar situation in the 1400 block of Spruce Street, where the city will be adding 2,460 square feet of sidewalk in front of seven homes in that neighborhood that is near Berrian Park, which is a 12-acre park on the city's north side.
Similarly in the 1700 block of Maple Street, the sidewalk abruptly stops midway through the block and resumes again down the block resulting in four homes not having a sidewalk.
The list of sidewalk projects also includes a number of sidewalks that are being improved to specifically address concerns over handicap accessibility, such as the sidewalk at 2300 Elm Street.
Rick Goodapple, who lives at 2315 Elm Street, said he has witnessed individuals who use wheelchairs struggle to get over the steep incline of the sidewalk, which was caused by a nearby tree root.
"That sidewalk has worried me about tripping every time I go out," Goodapple said. "It is really jacked up."
Another one of the neighborhood residents said she purposefully goes out of her way to not walk on that sidewalk when she goes to the Ladies of Charity Thrift Store, which is at intersection of N. 24th Street and Elm.
A similar example of improving accessibility is the installation of detectable warning plates, which are installed on sidewalk ramps to alert those with visual disabilities that they are approaching a street or other traffic hazard. These warnings will be installed at 12 locations throughout Quincy, including at 2000 Sycamore Street which is adjacent to the Quincy University football stadium and athletic complex.
Other warnings are being installed at 403 S. Fourth St.; 1200 Jersey Street; 700 Kentucky Street; 2000 Jackson Street; 2205 Spring Street; 2000 Sycamore Street; 500 York Street; 535 North 13th Street; 1932 State Street; 200 Broadway; 1700 Oak Street; and at the intersection of Spruce Street, 14th and 15th Streets.
Alderman Katie Awerkamp, D-6, said she is hoping residents throughout the city will see the improved sidewalks as an investment Quincy's government is making into the city's various neighborhoods. She said she is also hoping the improved sidewalks may also act as a catalyst for new residents moving into the city.
"I live in the middle of the 6th Ward and I frequently see people walking on the sidewalks," Awerkamp said. "I think sidewalks are an asset to every ward of the city and I know there are parts of a lot of the wards, especially the 6th Ward, that are struggling with curb appeal. Something like curb appeal is super important when you are trying to get potential residents to consider moving into your neighborhood, especially when your neighborhood is one of the older parts of the city."
With so many 154 sidewalks, 39 streets, and 12 sewer and water projects, Reis and his fellow aldermen are encouraging residents to be patient.
"This is a big infrastructure project," Reis said. "Just like Rome was not built in a day neither will this be done in one day. The general public has to try and be patient throughout this process."