City audit reveals questionable practices with sidewalk repairs

Posted at 8:10 PM, May 09, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-09 20:18:09-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)—A city audit reveals that the Department of Public Works is not completing or keeping track of city sidewalk repairs, and could be potentially wasting taxpayer money.

City residents are quick to comment on the neglect—the cracked, crumbled, and damaged sidewalks—that stretch throughout the city

"They're a little dangerous,” said city resident Kevin Whit. “Definitely at night, there are lots of cracks and bumps everywhere that you can usually trip or run into.”

In the City of Richmond, 17 full time workers with the Department of Public Works are charged with repairing 832 miles of sidewalks.

"I think they just had their priorities somewhere else,” said resident Jane Hillyer.

CBS 6 also found out that crews were repairing sidewalks and not calling Miss Utility beforehand to mark underground lines.

"It just makes you kind of wonder just what else are they doing without telling the neighbors,” said Dacia Thompson.

"That's alarming…this law has been around since 1979,” said Shane Ayers, Safety Program manager, Division of Utility and Railroad Safety, Virginia State Corporation Commission.

“Failing to call Miss Utility and have underground utility lines marked prior to conducting an investigation or demolition could result in injury, death or serious power outages,” said Ayers.

Ayers said if homeowners or companies violate state law they could face fines; but not so, for local jurisdictions.

"If a municipality is found in probable violation, the commission can order them to submit a corrective plan.  And then, they would be bound under commission order to carry out the plan,” said Ayers.

CBS 6 asked city leaders to find out how they plan to avoid putting crews and homeowners at risk.

"Our remedy is training,” said Chris Beschler, Richmond Chief Administrative Officer.  "We believe that we are in compliance now that adjustments have been made--that is certainly an issue we did address very quickly.”

The City Auditor’s report on the Roadway Maintenance and Capital Improvement Sidewalk operations has prompted the State Corporation Commission to investigate the findings.

If you see city crews or anyone who may be digging or in violation of the Miss Utility law, call 811 to make a report.