WATERLOO — City Council members rejected 6-1 Monday night a sidewalk repair process originally introduced as a potential cost-saving measure for residents.
The council voted against a resolution to allow mudjacking to repair uneven or sunken slabs. Legal in some Iowa cities, it involves drilling holes through a sidewalk slab, pumping grout under it and filling the hole with concrete patch mix. Council member Patrick Morrissey proposed the measure at an Oct. 5 work session.
Commercial and residential property owners in Waterloo are required to pay for sidewalk repairs under a decades-old ordinance. Morrissey said mudjacking can cost less than replacement for residents who have more than one slab to fix.
It typically costs $215 per tile to replace sidewalk. One contractor, B.C. Construction Inc., said it sets a minimum cost of $300 per tile for mudjacking, but the cost drops if numerous tiles in a row need repair.
“This is allowing our citizens the choice of how to spend their money,” Morrissey said. “I don’t understand why anybody on council is going to restrict the options people have available as to how they’re going to use their own money when they’re mandated to do something.”
City Engineer Jamie Knutson said mudjacking is a “temporary fix” and doesn’t last as long as replacement. The practice is not recommended by the Statewide Urban Design and Specifications, a group of more than 100 city and county officials, transportation department employees and engineering firms, Knuston said.
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Council member Sharon Juon said she could not support the resolution since mudjacking would cost more money over time.
“If the motive was to save the property owner funds, I don’t think — I haven’t been convinced — that mudjacking saves them money if they have to do it two or three times in order to equal one of our normal process,” Juon said.
Knutson said the only Iowa cities that allow mudjacking are Cedar Falls, Iowa City, Coralville and West Des Moines in some situations. Morrissey said he received information from 18 communities throughout Iowa, and 17 allow mudjacking for sidewalk repairs.
Morrissey added that sidewalk specifications adopted in March 2014 neither prohibit nor allow mudjacking. Knutson said the city has not allowed the process during his 26 years in the engineering department.
Council member Jerome Amos said he is aware of areas where there are voids underneath sidewalks. Sidewalk replacement includes removing unsuitable or unstable soils, while mudjacking does not.
“Realistically for me, I think that the system that we have is what we should be sticking with at this point in time,” Amos said.
Council member Jonathan Grieder said sidewalks affect not only property owners, but community members who use sidewalks to travel to work, school or the grocery store. He emphasized their use as a “public good.”
“We shouldn’t experiment with making a mistake,” Council member Margaret Klein said.
Council member Dave Boesen initially suggested the city allow mudjacking, but require more frequent inspections to ensure slabs are fixed. Knutson said the process would require more staff, time and resources.
“I’m going to stand with our employee, Jamie Knutson, and I respect what he does and I respect his career and I see no reason to go against what he has said,” Klein said.