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Commissioner says repairs for sidewalk around Courthouse on the Square on the way

The county has finally started the process of repairing the Courthouse on the Square sidewalk, Denton County Commissioner Andy Eads said Wednesday.

In January 2016, Denton resident Susan Vaughan fell face forward after her toe got caught in a cracked portion of the sidewalk. She paid $9,000, including the cost of surgery and follow-up care, to repair four damaged teeth. Nearly three months after Vaughan's fall, Denton resident Yvette Spicer suffered a broken arm after she tripped and fell on the sidewalk.

Both women for months urged county officials to repair the sidewalk surrounding the courthouse, stirring a back-and-forth discussion between the city and county over who owned the walkway. Neither claimed responsibility until Eads reached out to Denton City Manager Todd Hileman in February, a month after Hileman took up the position.

"Commissioner Eads reached out to me a month after I started," Hileman said. "We discussed that issue and a number of other issues. We initially provided a draft, and after he met with the commissioners a couple of times, [the county] ultimately decided to take ownership."

Eads, who sent information through a statement in an email, said Teaque Nall and Perkins, Inc. are currently working through the "multi-step" design phase. He said the company has reached out to Texas Historical Commission to approve the construction.

TNP is a civil engineering, surveying, and landscape architecture firm. They have offices in Fort Worth, Dallas and Denton. 

"Once we receive [the state historical commission's] approval, complete the design and bidding process, we will begin the construction of the sidewalks," Eads said in the email, adding that depending on the state historical commission's response, construction could continue into early 2018.

TNP has not finished their official cost estimates, though the project is estimated to cost "upwards of $200,000," he said. Eads did not respond to follow-up questions about whether the project would consist of a total sidewalk replacement or a repair.

Vaughan had been pushing for a complete replacement at multiple commissioners meetings. Vaughan said the developments were "encouraging" to hear, but she's still skeptical of the project's progress. 

"I am slow to trust them, but I certainly have a wait-and-see attitude," Vaughan said.

Vaughan, a music teacher, has been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, but she's been determined to see the project through. She's appeared at several commissioners and city council meetings, armed with a signed 1958 resolution in which the city government at the time agreed to maintain the streets around the downtown Square, while the county claimed responsibility for the curbs, gutters and sidewalks.

In the midst of her efforts, she filed an injury claim to Denton County commissioners, as she paid $6,000 out of pocket for her medical expenses. Commissioners denied the claim in January.

Now, she said she just wants the commissioners to formally announce the progress during their regularly scheduled meetings on Tuesdays.

"I'll be encouraged when the county comes before the public and commits to replacing the sidewalks," she said.

JULIAN GILL can be reached at 940-566-6882.

FEATURED PHOTO: A pedestrian steps on a section of the crumbling sidewalk that surrounds the Courthouse on the Square on Wednesday near the intersection of West Oak and North Locust Streets in downtown Denton. Denton County Commissioner Andy Eads said repairs to the courthouse sidewalk are in the works and would cost nearly $200,000. Susan Vaughan has been pushing for these repairs since January 2016, when she tripped on a cracked portion of the sidewalk and damaged four of her front teeth. The surgery and subsequent care cost her about $9,000.
Jeff Woo/DRC