The Oyster Bay Town Board voted Tuesday to end the town’s $5-million-a-year subsidy program to pay for sidewalk replacement.
For years, property owners have used the program to replace sidewalk slabs at a lower cost than using a private contractor — $100 per slab. But that was about 25 percent of the total price paid to the contractor, according to town officials. The town borrowed millions of dollars in its capital budget over the years to pay the remainder. That added to the town’s growing debt, estimated last month at $828.6 million, including short-term capital and district debt.
Under changes to the town code adopted Tuesday, property owners going forward will be responsible for the full sidewalk repair cost.
“It’s going to save us about $5 million a year,” said Councilman Joseph Pinto, who pushed for the cost-cutting move. “We’re not going to have to borrow for this money going forward.”
Town officials did not respond to requests for the actual spending under the program. Town records show that under a requirements contract with Amityville-based LandTek Group Inc., the town board authorized at least $19.5 million from 2011 through 2015 for the concrete replacement program. A requirements contract sets prices for certain services on an as-needed basis rather than for a particular project.
“When we had the money it was a great service,” said Councilman Anthony Macagnone. “We don’t have the money right now.”
Under the town code, property owners are required to maintain sidewalks in a safe condition to prevent people from tripping and falling. Pinto and Macagnone said people used the subsidy program to replace sidewalk slabs even when repairs weren’t necessary.
“Why would we go and replace 10 slabs when only two of them needed to be replaced?” Pinto said. “For those eight extra slabs, it cost the town an extra $2,400, and that was happening all over town and that’s why you got these crazy dollar amounts every year for this program.”
Macagnone said some property owners would use the program to replace their entire sidewalk for aesthetic reasons.
“If you saw one in the middle that was bad and you didn’t want different-colored concrete, you’d get them all changed,” he said.
The town has a backlog of about $3 million to $4 million of sidewalk repairs to be done under the old program, and those approvals will be honored, officials said.