LITHIA, Fla. — Cracking, lifted sidewalks are creating a safety hazard and even destroying driveways. It's a problem in most older Hillsborough County neighborhoods and many homeowners want to know why it takes so long to get them fixed.
It all starts with the trees — many live oaks were planted by developers in the right of way and in many cases... too close to the sidewalks. As they grow, the roots are causing the cracks and lifting on sidewalks and driveways.
The problem is that the county owns and maintains all the sidewalks, more than 3,000 miles worth, and they are a little backlogged on repair requests.
Josh Bellotti is the Hillsborough County's Director of Engineering and Operations. "We currently have over 2,400 open requests for sidewalk repairs that date back over 10 years and that affects 900 neighborhoods across the county," he said.
Grant Frensley knows all too well how long it takes to get a sidewalk fixed, even when it's ruining his driveway.
"I eventually kept pressing until they at least moved the one tree I had a problem with."
He owns a home in Lithia and has been filing service requests since 2018.
"Because the residents out here, there's not a lot that we can do when you're talking about county property or county trees that are affecting county property."
Bellotti knows it's an issue. "We understand that it's frustrating because there's a lot of people that have been waiting for a long time and it does come down to funding and resources."
Frensley did some minor fixes of his own on his driveway, but the real fix requires some major work that is ultimately the county's responsibility.
"You can't just leave it on the resident, especially when I can't fix my own area even if I could because there's gas lines underneath there. If I damage it, then it's on me."
Unfortunately, with a limited budget, the county says it can only do so much. They do major repairs in only about 15 neighborhoods a year, but they say they do respond quickly to all requests.
"Crews can come out and they can perform sidewalk grinding where we have transitions that are uneven to grind down the concrete and help smooth that out and reduce trip and fall hazards. And then on any other areas that are more than they can repair, we'll put down a high visibility reflective tape."
It's still frustrating for homeowners like Frensley. "I realize there's a process. We just kind of want to know what the process is. Just tell us the dates and the timeline. Don't say there's a plan in place, what's the plan?"
The plan, according to the county, is to look at the requests dating back the furthest, in some cases more than 10 years. If the sidewalks are an issue throughout an entire neighborhood, then they do the sidewalks all at once.
Also, Bellotti says if your HOA is sending you notices about the sidewalks in front of your home, keep track of when you sent in a repair request to the county and just keep referring them to the county.