Milwaukee neighbors still waiting for sidewalk repairs, more than a month after August storms

DPW tells the I-Team they are short-staffed
Posted at 9:35 AM, Sep 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-29 09:06:52-04

MILWAUKEE — Frustrated neighbors across the city have waited more than a month for the city to repair sidewalks that were upended by trees downed in mid-August storms.

The sidewalks are impassable, which can be difficult for residents to get around, like 94-year-old Bessie Neal in the Harambee neighborhood. She interacts with her neighbors on a regular basis, but sidewalks in her neighborhood have remained buckled in numerous places.

"You've got to be careful when you walk," Neal said. "You've got to be very careful but if they (her neighbors) see me they come and help me cross the street."

The Milwaukee Department of Public Works says so far they've repairs sidewalks in 19 locations. As of Monday, they were working on an additional 26, with 12 more still waiting for crews to start work. They anticipate they will get additional repair requests as the forestry teams continue to address downed trees across the city

"Something like that discourages you," Neal said. "You're trying to keep your property up and then the city doesn't do too much. Well they know how to send you a bill, I'll tell you that."

Streets Services Manager Tom Wangerin says they're playing catch up after the storms, with sidewalk repair requests coming in almost daily.

"This is absolutely a rare emergency situation," Wangerin said. "This is not an everyday one. We would not see sidewalk repairs of this volume on a regular year."

He explained the delays are in part because several teams need to address each site. Forestry comes out to remove the downed tree and remove the stump. Then they need to have utility lines marked before Wangerin's crews can pour new concrete.

It's a difficult task, especially with fewer employees than normal.

"Overall everywhere people are seeing staffing shortages and we're working with crews that aren't the same size as what we're used too and our employees are really picking up the slack," Wangerin said.

The I-Team met Bessie earlier this month, and since we first spoke with her the city has started working on the sidewalks in her neighborhood. In some spots, the city will remove the tree and put the concrete blocks back in position, or possibly even pour a small patch to address cracks or heaves. Wangerin said those are temporary fixes to allow crews to address as many sites as possible. Eventually, they will pour new concrete at all of those locations.

If you have a sidewalk issue that you'd like to report to the city, you can call (414) 286-CITY (2489) or visit the city's website.

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