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Oak trees buckling sidewalks cost town of Jupiter in repairs, lawsuits

Posted at 7:26 PM, Aug 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-24 10:04:11-04

Uneven, buckling sidewalks are costing the town of Jupiter $1.8 million in both repairs and insurance payouts.

Thirty-two people filed insurance claims against the town from 2010 to 2016 for tripping and falling on sidewalks. The town paid $83,185 in insurance deductibles for those claims. The insurer paid $311,338.

The root systems of oak trees planted close to sidewalks cause slabs of concrete to lift up and become uneven.

“The concrete kind of gets at different levels and there’s always a danger to that, so you have to be careful,” said Michael Gilliam, who lives in Maplewood.

Deborah Hjort said she tripped on an uneven sidewalk on Main Street in Abacoa in February 2011 when she was out with her daughter and granddaughter.

“I went flying,” she said.

She hurt a nerve in her neck and her leg. It took six months to heal.

“You normally aren’t looking down when you’re talking,” she said. “You’re looking up and I didn’t see that the sidewalk was raised up.”

Hjort filed a lawsuit against the town of Jupiter. She accepted a settlement of what she said was a couple thousand dollars, which covered her medical costs.

“A lot of people walk those streets and sidewalks and they should be maintained better than they were,” she said.

Hjort isn’t sure if a root was underneath the spot she tripped on.

The area where she tripped does have oak trees adjacent to the sidewalk.

The town of Jupiter has spent more than a million dollars doing sidewalk repairs from 2010 to 2016.

One of the sidewalk repair materials the town has tried out is pervious rubber. However, at a workshop Tuesday night, town staff said it was supposed to be grey and instead turned out to be black, which upset some residents with homes next to the repairs.

“It’s rough,” said Gilliam, who lives across the street from a sidewalk where the black pervious rubber was used. “Just feels like a strange material to be using for a sidewalk.”

Town council directed staff to fix the black patches as soon as possible.

Town staff will meet with homeowners associations and residents to find out what they want to see done to fix the sidewalks in their own neighborhoods.