Tree roots have made sidewalks along Oakdale Avenue and 21 other properties in Medford unsafe They will be repaired in January, and the property owners will ultimately foot the bill whether they like it or not. Bob Pennell / Mail Tribune - Bob Pennell

Where the sidewalk buck stops

Medford officials have cracked down on unsafe sidewalks in neighborhoods, giving property owners a deadline to make the repairs.

The city has found 22 properties where the sidewalks have been deemed unsafe and require repairs of up to $47,900 total.

Property owners have been notified, but haven't responded to four to five letters sent out by the city.

A final letter sent Dec. 20 notified property owners they had 30 days to make the repairs — otherwise the city would complete the work.

If the homeowners don't pay for the work themselves, the city will send a bill. If that bill isn't paid, the city will place a lien on the property that would be collected when the property sells.

Gary Kruggel, whose 86-year-old parents own a house in southeast Medford, said it would be a financial hardship for his family to fix the sidewalk.

"It's not right at all," he said. "They have massive health bills."

His mother, Dixie Kruggel, has Alzheimer's, and his father, Fred Kruggel, has undergone surgery for tumors.

"My father's had to spend so much money," the 61-year-old son said. "And, he's still got to maintain the house."

Gary Kruggel said he's seen many other sidewalks in Medford that are far worse.

Kruggel, who also has health problems, lives with his parents and said the family can't take on any new financial burdens.

"It's getting scarier every year," he said. "My dad doesn't have his driver's license anymore."

City engineer Larry Beskow said the city has sent letters to each of the property owners over the past year and a half.

The city could begin the sidewalk work in January 2012 without further notice.

Beskow said the city hasn't determined how much it will cost each property owner to pay for the repairs. He said it will be up to the contractor to make that determination.

Sidewalks are considered unsafe when a rise of three-eighths of an inch is encountered, usually because of tree roots.

"Three-eighths of an inch is a tripping hazard," Beskow said.

A couple of small sections of sidewalk might cost $500 to repair, but more extensive repairs could run $1,000 or more, he said.

Beskow said the city hopes the overall cost for all the properties comes in less than the $47,900 budgeted.

The area with the most problem sidewalks is southwest Medford, with eight properties listed by the city in need of repairs. Northeast Medford is second with six sidewalks targeted. Southeast and northeast Medford are tied with four sidewalks each.

Oakdale Avenue is in need of the most repairs, with four property owners on the street receiving letters. Easy Street has the second highest number of problems, with three letters sent out.

Beskow said the city isn't really interested in placing a lien on a property, hoping instead the homeowner resolves the matter.

Dan Wenzel, a 56-year-old who has owned his house in east Medford for 15 years, said he already fixed one problem where the tree lifted up the sidewalk. He concluded the city was referring to a patch of sidewalk near his driveway that had crumbled.

"I'm going to try to do it myself and beat them to the punch," Wenzel said. He was going to send his son out to buy a bag of concrete for the repairs.

Overall, he said he thinks it's unfair that these problems fall on the property owner to fix.

"I question the judgment of whoever plants these trees, then they just tear up the sidewalk," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email

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