Watertown Homeowner 'Incensed' Over Sidewalk Grant

Watertown Homeowner 'Incensed' Over Sidewalk Grant

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Michael LaDue owns a lot on the corner of Gill and North Pleasant streets. 

The city of Watertown will be replacing the sidewalks on his block this spring, but it will cost him an estimated $3,000. 

So when he learned the city would be replacing the sidewalks on Central Street at no cost to the property owners, he was not happy. 

“I was a little hot to be honest with you. I was a little incensed that they determined Central Street could get them for a grant yet the 1100 block of Gill, we're going to pay,” he said.

Mayor Joe Butler says the project is being done through what's called Community Development Block Grant funding.

Butler says the city had to use the $370,000 it had by the end of March or else it would have to return the money to the state. 

The Central Street Sidewalk project fit the bill.

"The dollar amount was going to be close. It was going to be done in a timely manner and it aligns with other projects that we've already done in the area and the sidewalks were in deplorable conditions so we thought it made sense," said Butler.

The grant funding can only be used on eligible projects in designated low-to-moderate income areas. Central Street qualifies.

But LaDue questions what makes an area low income. He did a little research and says more than 50 percent of the properties on Central Street are rental properties or businesses, not owned by low-income people.

“The city is subsidizing the rental property owners and penalizing the other folks that actually live in the properties that need the sidewalks replaced,” said LaDue. 

However, Mayor Butler says the area is designated as low-to-moderate income based on the people who live there, not the property owners. 

He says that isn't up to the city; the designation is made at a higher level of government.

“I don't make that formula. That's not my decision. My decision is we have money to spend, should we send it back or should we help a neighborhood out? And you do that at the risk of offending others,” said Butler.

Butler says the decision to replace the sidewalks in LaDue's area was made last fall before they knew they had to spend this grant funding. 

Plus, parts of the sidewalk district LaDue's property is in do not qualify as low-to-moderate income.

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