Sidewalk Policy

Statement of Purpose

A city government agency should have a sidewalk repair program that gives notice to property owners detailing State Law and City Ordinances that require them to maintain the property outside their lot line, as well as a policy outlining the procedures and requirements for sidewalk maintenance, construction and replacement.

Maintaining a safe walking surface is just as important as dealing with the winter snow and ice accumulations. Requiring a good surface with no tripping offsets that exceed the city’s policies is a must in providing for the safety of those who use the sidewalks. Most owners do not know when they purchase a property that they are required to maintain the property outside the lot or property lines to the curb, which includes the “City Sidewalk.” It seems to them, with no prior knowledge, that it is the city’s responsibility to fix any problems dealing with the city’s sidewalk.


The City of Owatonna has numerous miles of public sidewalks. Public sidewalks vary in age and in quality of condition. Not every mere inequality or irregularity in the surface of the sidewalk rises to the level of a defect. The City recognizes that some sidewalk conditions create unreasonable hazards for pedestrians and other sidewalk users.


The City has limited employees and financial resources and cannot reasonably replace all sidewalks needing replacement or repair in the same year the sidewalk is identified as needing replacement and repair. Sidewalk replacement and repair can be costly. Comprehensive sidewalk surveys are expensive and require the use of limited City personnel and other resources. Under appropriate circumstances, some or all of the cost may be passed to the adjacent property owner.

Accordingly, the City and its Public Works Department must exercise both discretion and professional judgment in determining whether and when sidewalks need to be replaced or repaired. The City expects that its agents, employees, and City Officials will exercise discretion in identifying conditions requiring replacement and repair, in the scheduling of replacement and repair and in establishing priorities for replacement and repair.

History of Program

The City began its official public sidewalk replacement and repair program in 1979. The competitive bidding process was used for the initial projects because of the large scope of the program. At that time it was decided by the City Council, in order to make the program more acceptable to the citizens of Owatonna, to share in the cost of the sidewalk replacement by paying 50% of the cost of the repair.

Sidewalk Inspection Procedure

The inspection, condemnation and repair of sidewalks will be done in accordance with City Ordinance, Section 94.004 and Section 94.005. The Director of Public Works/City Engineer or employee under his direction will perform routine sidewalk inspections throughout the City on an annual basis. The inspections will occur in the fall or early spring prior to the work scheduled each year. No set sections of the City will be inspected annually, however particular sidewalk areas may be targeted at one time.

In order to maintain consistency in the inspection and condemnation process for determining whether a particular sidewalk condition is in need of replacement or repair, the following list of criteria will be followed:

  • Sidewalk having a crack or joint with a deviation or difference in elevation of three-fourths inch or more.
  • Sidewalk having a crack or joint with an opening width of three-fourths inch or more.
  • Sidewalk having three or more cracks in one 5 by 5 foot section.
  • Sidewalk that has severe pitting or scaling.
  • Sidewalk that is the old rounded style or the 20 by 20 inch squares style.
  • Sidewalk that traps water or does not provide adequate surface drainage.
  • Sidewalk that is broken or missing.

Sidewalk Replacement & Repair Schedule

Upon completion of the initial sidewalk survey, the Director of Public Works/City Engineer will compile a list of sidewalk replacement and repair locations. The sidewalk list is subject to modification based on both sidewalk conditions and the availability of resources for sidewalk replacement and repair.

The following factors will be taken into consideration when preparing the final list:

  • Sidewalk location and amount of pedestrian traffic.
  • Proximity of sidewalk identified as needing replacement or repair to other sidewalks also needing replacement or repair.
  • The nature and severity of the condition needing replacement or repair.
  • The City’s budget for replacement or repair of sidewalks.
  • Whether, or to what extent, the cost of the repair can be recovered from adjacent property owners.
  • Public safety.
  • History of prior accidents or complaints.

Special Situations

Existing Partial Sidewalk

There are some locations within the City that have a partial sidewalk along the street and do not connect to the adjacent sidewalk system. In accordance with City Ordinances, these sections of sidewalk still need to be maintained. If a partial sidewalk extends 60% or more of a street segment, new sidewalk shall be constructed for the remainder of the street segment as part of the sidewalk repairs and the abutting property owners shall be assessed for 50% of the cost of the new sidewalk.

If a partial sidewalk extends less than 60% of a street segment, it may be repaired and left as a partial segment as long as a sidewalk is not specified along this street segment in the City Sidewalk Plan. If the partial sidewalk is on a street segment that is specified for a sidewalk in the City Sidewalk Plan, new sidewalk shall be constructed as part of the sidewalk repairs in accordance with New Sidewalk Construction in this policy

Removal of Sidewalk

Property owners abutting a partial sidewalk within a street segment may request to permanently remove the partial sidewalk and restore the area to lawn provided the following criteria are met:

  • The partial sidewalk extends less the 60% of the street segment
  • The City Sidewalk Plan does not call for a sidewalk along the street segment
  • 100% of the abutting property owners approve the removal of the sidewalk under the terms of this section
  • The property owners abutting the partial sidewalk will be assessed 100% of the costs to remove the sidewalk and restore the area to lawn

Downtown Sidewalk Over Vaults

There are some locations in the downtown business district of the City that have public sidewalk over underground vaults. These vaults were once used for coal and/or product delivery and many contain utilities. In order to replace or repair condemned sidewalk located over vaults, it is necessary to build a block wall between the vault and the building basement, fill and compact the vault area with granular material. Any utility services (sewer and water) that extend through the vault area will be inspected for condition and replaced if needed. The abutting property owners will be assessed 100% of the cost for the vault filling and utility service replacement. The City will share in the cost of the sidewalk replacement by paying 50% of the cost of the repair.

Assessment & Notification Procedure

Upon completion of the final list of sidewalk replacement and repair locations, the Director of Public Works/City Engineer will present to the City Council a resolution ordering the repair of sidewalks and setting a preliminary assessment hearing for notifying the affected property owners of the proposed improvement.

After completion of the sidewalk replacement and repair improvements, final costs and payment options will be established and a final assessment hearing will be held for the affected property owners.

New Sidewalk Construction

A Developer and/or the property owners in a new or an existing subdivision can petition the City for the construction of a new sidewalk in accordance with City Ordinance, Section 94.002. Upon approval by the City Council, a public meeting and hearing will be held in regards to the improvement. An assessment will be levied to the properties abutting and benefiting from the sidewalk improvement based on the affected property front footage in an amount equal to 100% of the cost of the improvement.

However, if new sidewalk is determined to be needed in accordance with the City Sidewalk Plan for the general public good, the City will share in the cost of the sidewalk improvement by paying for 50% of the cost. If the proposed sidewalk is on the Municipal State Aid Street (MSAS) system, the total costs of the new sidewalk will be funded with State Aid money.

Review & Modification of the Policy

The Policy will be reviewed periodically. Any review will consider comments and complaints since the last review and any factors affecting the Policy or its implementation.

The City Council may modify the Policy at any time. Where the City Council has delegated responsibility or authority to any City employee or official for development or implementation of any portion of the Policy, that employee or official will have full authority to modify that portion of the Policy at any time.

Effective Date of Policy

This Policy will be effective as of February 6, 2012. Modifications of the Policy will be effective on the date said modifications are approved by the City Council or the date any City employee or official with authority granted by the City Council has approved the Policy modification or change.