Sidewalks are the property owners' responsibility

Most of the sidewalks in our neighborhood are in OK shape, but one section is pretty bad. Isn't the city responsible for keeping the sidewalks in passable shape? Who do I contact to see if someone will fix it?

— Katherine L., Medford

The answer to whether the city is responsible for keeping sidewalks in shape is no and yes. According to Medford City Code 3.010, the responsibility for maintaining sidewalks lies with the property owner. Here's the actual wording of the code:

"The owners of property within the city shall inspect and maintain all sidewalks abutting their property in a condition safe for use by the public at all times. If any property owner by his neglect to perform any duty required of him by this section causes injury or damage to any person or property, he shall be liable to the person suffering such injury or damage and shall indemnify the city for all damages it has been compelled to pay in such case. Such damages may be collected in a civil action against the property owner."

However, if the property owner fails to do that, the code (30.023) says that the city is responsible for notifying him or her of the need for repairs and giving the property owner 30 days to accomplish the task. If the repairs are not made within 30 days — barring an extension — the city can repair the sidewalk and bill the property owner for the costs, plus administrative fees.

The entire matter may end up in the hands of the City Council, if the property owner decides to appeal. Then it would be up to the council members to determine if the sidewalk needs repair. (Little did they know when they ran for office that such momentous decisions would be handed to them.)

If your neighborhood sidewalk is still a hazard, Katherine, you can contact the Public Works Department at 541-774-2100 and ask the city to check it out.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to

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