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Business owner pays bill for sidewalk

NATCHEZ — Richard Branyan, who owns Lower Lodge Antiques, said he is currently having patchwork done on the sidewalk in front of his businesses in the 700 block of Franklin Street.

When Branyan posted pictures of the work on social media, some people were surprised to find out he paid for the concrete out of his own pocket.

If a private business owner wants to have aesthetic repairs to the public sidewalk in front of their property, they should be prepared to foot the bill for the materials, city officials said.

Natchez Public Works Director Justin Dollar said, traditionally, when the city has replaced sidewalks in public rights of way, the business owner pays for the concrete and the city provides the labor and equipment to get the job done.

Although private business owners contribute to the sidewalks, the sidewalks are still considered to be public property, Dollar said.

Natchez Public Works began breaking up the existing sidewalk a couple weeks ago in front of Branyan’s business and poured fresh concrete on Thursday, Branyan said.

Branyan estimated the completed work would cost him approximately $1,500, after having paid a little over $500 for the first part of the project, he said.

“It’s better than having a dangerous sidewalk,” Branyan said. “I’m happy to pay for the materials. … Hopefully, it will all blend in nicely and all will be good.”

In response to Branyan’s assertion of liability for a dangerous sidewalk, Natchez City Attorney Bryan Callaway said if someone were to trip and fall on a damaged public sidewalk the City of Natchez could be held legally responsible.

“The city is responsible for maintaining its sidewalks to the degree of safety that is required under Mississippi law,” Callaway said.

However, if a property owner desires to replace the sidewalk instead of fill in hazardous holes or cracks then they would have to cover the additional expense, Callaway said.