Some of the sidewalks in Magnolia Trace and Pinehurst (top right) are in need of repair, but Hillsborough County has a long backlog for sidewalk repairs. (Photos: John C. Cotey)

Dozens of orange safety cones and swatches of bright orange paint have been placed along sidewalks in at least two New Tampa neighborhoods, there as a warning — to watch your step.

Due to uneven sidewalks caused primarily by the roots of large oak trees planted years ago between the sidewalk and the road, those out for a walk or bike ride in the Magnolia Trace and Pinehurst communities off Brookron Dr. in Cross Creek are being cautioned, due to concerns raised by the homeowner’s association’s insurance company during an inspection.

How long will the orange cones adorn the neighborhood’s sidewalks?

That’s anyone’s guess.

Jo-Ann Pilawski of Pilawski Property Management, which manages the Cross Creek II Master Association, notified Hillsborough County’s Public Works department about the sidewalks, which indicated in an email that “a work request has been initiated and assigned to the West Service Unit for inspection, review, and response.”

The email stated an inventory of potential repairs will be conducted within a month, and afterwards, the county will “grind” all identified areas where the lift is less than two inches.

The areas raised more than two inches — and there are quite a few in both neighborhoods — “will be flagged with reflective tape and added to the county’s current backlog of sidewalk replacement requests.”

That backlog, according to Hannah Titrington, the program coordinator of the customer resolution unit at the county, who wrote the email to Pilawski, is approximately 24-36 months.

Prior to 2018, the county had minimal funding for sidewalk repairs, Titrington wrote, causing the backlog. But, in 2018, the Board of County Commissioners committed significantly more money to sidewalk repair after passing a 10-year, $800-million plan for transportation improvements.

“It’s a big county, so you can imagine how many sidewalks there are that need repairs,” Pilawski said. “Unfortunately, unless the association pays for repairs, we’re stuck. A few residents have called to complain, but as soon as I tell them it might make (their) fees go up, no one is interested anymore.”

Pilawski also said that doing so would also set a bad precedent, considering that the sidewalks are supposed to be maintained by the county.

Titrington did write that while the county is working on older requests first, repairs are grouped by proximity. So, an older request from a different area in New Tampa could expedite Pilawski’s request for repairs.

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