Fairfield sidewalk repair program begins with one man’s walk

Rick Scalf has walked on every sidewalk in the city of Fairfield — twice.

Scalf, who’s been the city’s part-time sidewalk inspector since 2009, looks for cracked concrete and trip hazards across approximately one-fourth of the city every year. He’s started his annual trek this month, marking sidewalks in need of repair with a white “X.”

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This year is the start of his third time around the city that has more than 19,000 square feet of sidewalk. On a normal day, he’ll start his walk around 8 a.m. and wraps up around 4 p.m., which equates to about 12,000 to 16,000 steps, he said.

Scalf, 66, came to the city in November 2009 after retiring from hauling new cars in Norwoord and then in Moraine. He retired after the GM plant in Moraine closed.

Scalf looks for shifted sidewalk blocks creating a trip hazard, deteriorating portions of sidewalk, and large or significant cracks that are likely to erode in four years. To be marked, the pavement must be in really poor condition, he said.

With every crack and splitting portion of sidewalks, Scalf balances the cheapest repair for a property owner with “what’s best in the long run.” A lot of times he errs on the side of caution.

“A lot of times I hate to do it, but if I don’t mark it now what is it going to look like in four years?” he said. “It may be okay, it may not. It’s just a judgment … there’s no black and white rule.”

But there are a lot of considerations he must factor in before designating a sidewalk for repair, especially if it’s connected to a driveway apron. If it’s an apartment building, that means many people could be inconvenienced for several days in the spring.

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And for now, this is a job Scalf enjoys.

“If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t be out here doing this,” he said. “I’m going to do it as long as I feel good. I believe when a person retires they have to stay active.”

The city spends a few hundred thousand dollars each year repairing sidewalks.

Affected property owners will get letters in the mail around March indicating they either can hire someone to make the repairs or have the city’s contractor make the repairs, which will then be assessed to their property taxes. They have 60 days to decide.

In the city of Fairfield, property owners are responsible for the condition of the sidewalk and the driveway aprons.

He’ll wrap up his trek around a quarter of the city by November or December.

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