Janesville man says he was billed for sidewalk damage caused by city

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Jake Magee
Wednesday, December 6, 2017

JANESVILLE—A resident billed for the city's repair of his sidewalk called the charge unfair, saying it was city employees who had damaged the sidewalk.

City officials said the sidewalk damage was the result of regular wear and tear and not the fault of city employees who drove a Toolcat utility vehicle down the sidewalk to plow areas adjacent to the property.

Dave Schenker has owned a warehouse at 1900 Beloit Ave. since at least 2012. The warehouse is just north of rail lines where the city regularly plows sidewalks.

Years ago, city employees drove utility vehicle plows hundreds of feet along the sidewalk in front of a gas station and Schenker's property to reach the railroad. The utility vehicles are wider than the sidewalk and often knocked recently shoveled snow back onto the path Schenker had cleared, he said, so he asked the city to stop.

The city complied, said Paul Woodard, public works director.

"I'm not sure why they were doing it that way. We stopped that procedure, though," Woodard said.

Schenker said they didn't. The city plow driver still used the gas station's or his own driveway to reach the railroad, Schenker said.

In about March 2016, a utility vehicle driver was plowing the railroad area and backed up along Schenker's sidewalk and gave Schenker a "look," he said.

"That was an intentional, blatant act to back down my sidewalk 70 feet and then look at me and take off," Schenker said. "She was making a point."

Schenker confronted her, and she became upset, he said.

"The best word would be 'belligerent, obnoxious,'" Schenker said.

A city supervisor arrived and told the driver several times to leave until she eventually did, Schenker said. He showed the supervisor the damage to his sidewalk.

Woodard said he had no knowledge of the incident.

The supervisor and other city employees know they shouldn't be driving on sidewalks, Schenker said. He points to a state statute that reads, in part, "the sidewalk shall be for the use of persons on foot" and "shall be kept clear for the use of persons on foot."

"I mean, that is what sidewalks are for is for foot traffic, not for them to drive their equipment down through there," he said. "They know better."

Schenker thought the problems were done, but in July he received a city order to repair the sidewalk in front of his property.

According to city photos of the sidewalk, four concrete sections needed replacing. Some were tilted. Others had cracks and chips.

The city said the damage wasn't unlike damage to other sidewalks seen in Janesville.

"What causes it, I don't know, but we don't believe it was damage from our plows," Woodard said. "Sidewalks fail for various reasons."

Schenker said it would take a 900-pound man walking on the sidewalk to cause the damage.

Schenker disputed the city's order. In the midst of that process, he went to his warehouse to mow one day and found the city had already begun repairing the sidewalk.

"I'm waiting to figure out what's going on, and they just did it," he said.

Woodard said the city repaired the sidewalk because Schenker missed the deadline to repair it himself.

Schenker later was billed $580 for the repairs. For that cost, Schenker said, he could have repaired much more of the sidewalk than the four squares the city fixed, he said.

"This isn't going to break me, but there are people that $584 is a lot of money," Schenker said.

Regardless of the timing or cost, Schenker believes he shouldn't have to pay for damage he's convinced the city caused.

Schenker paid the bill so it wouldn't go on his property tax bill with interest, he said.

"You can't dispute it or anything of that nature," Schenker said. "It's just going to be done."

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