NORTH TONAWANDA – Public Works Superintendent Bradley Rowles has helped to develop a cheaper, faster solution for fixing crooked “trip-hazard” sidewalks that he will begin applying as weather warms in the next couple of months.

With $60,000 from his equipment budget, Rowles will soon buy machines that his crews will use to drill small holes in crooked concrete slabs, pump sand and cement down through a pipe and lift the sidewalk block so that it is level again.

Rowles won informal support for the project from the Common Council at a workshop session Tuesday evening. Rowles, who took the North Tonawanda position two years ago, used a similar approach when he served as highway superintendent in the Town of Tonawanda. There, a local company, A-1 Concrete Leveling, did the work that North Tonawanda workers will soon take on.

“This is something fairly new to the industry, and it’s going to be a real asset to the city,” he said. “I believe we’re the first ones to do this on a municipal level.”

Every year shifts in sidewalks – due to tree roots growing and sewer and water lines leaking – have the potential to cause someone to trip, so the Public Works Department takes care to do repairs each season.

Leveling with concrete and sand costs about $5 per slab, while the more conventional approach of fixing crooked sidewalks with a new slab costs about $100 per concrete block, Rowles said.

Rowles tested the leveling approach on some Webster Street sidewalk blocks two months ago as a demonstration for city officials. Now that he has their support, he will buy the equipment and ingredients, which include a drill and a machine to mix and pump the grout underground.

Usually, the city’s annual $75,000 sidewalk budget is enough to repair about 750 pieces of sidewalk, said Rowles. This summer, with the cheaper leveling system, he expects to straighten 1,400 pieces.

“It’ll pay for itself in one year,” he said.