Nearly 1,400 notices were sent last week to Northeast Rochester property owners regarding defective sidewalk panels.

In all, it covers 161,901 square feet of sidewalk, and the estimated cost for the repairs totaled just more than $2 million.

The notices included estimates for repairs under a city contract, along with details related to hiring a private contractor to do the work.

Here are a few things to know about the program:

1. Estimates are based on worst-case scenarios.

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Estimates sent to homeowners ranged from $270 to $7,423, and each was based on the assumption that all defects require replacement, according to Brett Jenkinson, engineering project manager with Rochester Public Works.

“We gave our estimates solely in terms of replacing concrete to repair defects,” he said.

RELATED: How much will Rochester residents save on sidewalk repairs?

2. Replacement costs are guided by a city rate sheet.

Rates are approved by Rochester City Council along with a variety of other citywide fees.

The sidewalk rates are based on historic bid prices and range from $13.54 per square foot for standard residential replacement to $21.97 per square foot for some commercial replacements.

3. The homeowner can’t be charged more than the estimate.

While the city must wait until July to seek a contractor -- giving residents the opportunity to hire the work done themselves, Jenkinson said the price of the city contractor does not affect the fee charged to homeowners.

4. Replacement isn’t always needed.

While homeowners have had the option to grind down tripping hazards for years, the city council approved the option for city-contracted work last year.

A leveled section of the sidewalk on Tuesday, August 18, 2020, in northwest Rochester. (Traci Westcott /
A leveled section of the sidewalk on Tuesday, August 18, 2020, in northwest Rochester. (Traci Westcott /

Jenkinson said that means grinding high areas or raising sunken panels with a technique known as mud jacking will decrease costs for residents when appropriate.

He said 74 percent of all defects marked for replacement last year were able to be addressed by grinding, which can reduce the cost to $60 to $75 per panel.

5. Corner lots get a break.

The city funds half the cost of repairs on the longer side of a corner lot containing a single-family home.

The cost is covered with $200,000 set aside from property tax revenue each year.

6. City covers cost of tree work

The city’s dedicated $200,000 also covers the cost of any added work related to boulevard trees under the city’s contract.

“Special tree care typically costs about $800 to $1,000 per tree,” Jenkinson said.

7. Trees extend warranty on work.

While concrete replacement is under a contractor warranty for two years, and fully covered by the city for the next three years, damage from a boulevard tree remains covered for the life of the concrete.

A 2008 policy change means any damage caused by boulevard tree to a sidewalk placed since that point has been repaired at city expense.

Jenkinson said the change came as the result of updated practices that help guide root growth, including the use of materials that limit water retention under the sidewalk.

8. Warranties are for all work.

Since the city requires property owners to use licensed contractors if paying for the work themselves, the warranties in place for city work remain for private work.

Homeowner costs for future work starts after five years. At that point, a homeowner is responsible for 20 percent of the cost in the sixth year and an additional 20 percent each year until the full cost is homeowner responsibility in the 10th year.

9. Discussions continue surrounding a new way of funding the work.

The city council has been split in recent years regarding a proposal to create a sidewalk district fund, which would collect annual fees from property owners to pay for needed sidewalk work, rather than assessing individual property owners.

The idea has again been mentioned during the start of recent 2021 budget discussions.

10. Sidewalk work is on a 20-year rotation.

Rochester Public Works established a 20-year rotation for sidewalk work in 2013, based on a federal Americans With Disabilities Act requirement.

A Rochester city map indicates where sidewalk repairs are planned through 2038. (city of Rochester)
A Rochester city map indicates where sidewalk repairs are planned through 2038. (city of Rochester)

While work is scheduled by region between 2019 and 2038, a portion of the area inspected last year -- east of Silver Lake Park -- was last addressed in 2009, before the current map was created.

11. Inspections were conducted twice.

The city contracted for sidewalk inspections in the fall, but snow fell before the results were reviewed by city staff.

Jenkinson said that required city staff to reinspect the sidewalks this spring.

12. Payment isn’t due until the end of the year.

Invoices for work done under a city contract won’t be sent until the repairs are made, which is expected to start mid-July.

Payments will be due at the end of the year, but property owners have the option to pay over a five-year period through their property tax bills. Payments will include interest of the prime rate plus 1 percent.