Senior citizens receive letters demanding payment for sidewalk r - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Senior citizens receive letters demanding payment for sidewalk repairs

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One senior citizen says there has to be another way. One senior citizen says there has to be another way.
A clash is escalating between the City of Memphis and some senior citizens. A clash is escalating between the City of Memphis and some senior citizens.
The city sent letters demanding payment for sidewalk repairs to uphold city code, but the seniors say the city's action seems arbitrary. The city sent letters demanding payment for sidewalk repairs to uphold city code, but the seniors say the city's action seems arbitrary.
MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC) - A clash is escalating between the City of Memphis and some senior citizens. The city sent letters demanding payment for sidewalk repairs to uphold city code, but the seniors say the city's action seems arbitrary.

One senior citizen says there has to be another way.

Mattie Lambert, 68, is one of several neighbors in the Speedway Terrace section of North Memphis who received a letter from the City of Memphis. It says she owes the city nearly $1,800 to fix her sidewalk.

Lambert says she brings in only $800 per month from Social Security.

"We're struggling here. I'm not asking for a handout. I'm asking to be fair," she said.

She says the issue of domain seems gray. The city owns the sidewalk, but a city ordinance says the property owner must maintain the sidewalk.

"I even had Allstate come out here. They said it's not my property," said Lambert.

Diana Martin uses a scooter to get around. She supports the idea of homeowners maintaining sidewalks. She calls cracked sidewalks a danger.

Councilman Harold Collins proposed a 60-day moratorium on the city action and to discuss the issue on Tuesday.

"People have been receiving letters and being ordered to come to environmental court," said Collins. "Senior citizens who do not have the finances to feed themselves or buy their own medicine, how are we going to force them to repair sidewalks and then haul them into court?"

He's worried about collateral damage, if someone wants to refinance or sell their home.

"Ultimately, a lien could be placed on the homeowner's home," he said.

City of Memphis sent the following on Monday regarding the letters:

• The City did not send "letters demanding payment for sidewalk repairs to uphold city code." As the letter stated, the City was ordered by Judge Potter, Shelby County Environmental Court, to provide five (5) homeowners with estimates of the repairs needed (by a third-party contractor) to comply with the longstanding City Code requiring homeowners to keep the sidewalks on their property "in good repair and condition." Ms. Lambert was one of those five homeowners.

• Ms. Lambert does not owe the City "nearly $1,800 to fix her sidewalk." It is Ms. Lambert's responsibility by law to repair her own sidewalk.

• The City's actions are not arbitrary. They are part of a city-wide effort to encourage greater property-owner compliance with the City's Sidewalk Ordinance. After four months, the initiative has already been a great success. Our general experience has been that once property owners are made aware of the problem and their responsibility in keeping their sidewalk in good repair, most step up to fulfill this important civic duty voluntarily.

• The City does not own Ms. Lambert's sidewalk. While the sidewalk represents a right-of-way owned by the City, the legal responsibility for maintaining the sidewalk is the property owner's under Memphis City Code of Ordinances, Sec. 12-24-3.

• The City is exploring ways to assist those in need to fulfill this responsibility of home ownership. Among the ideas being explored are a sidewalk assistance fund, payment plans, and aid from non-profit organizations.

The senior citizens will be at Tuesday's meeting.

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