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Tennessee man breaks hand after tripping on broken sidewalk in Hillsborough County

Repair backlog at least 13 years
Posted at 4:44 PM, Nov 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-04 18:42:10-05

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. --- A Tennessee man visiting family in Hillsborough County ended up in the ER for several hours after tripping over a broken sidewalk last week.

Jim Bailey was in town for his grandson's senior football game in the Fishhawk community last week.

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While watching a child cross the road on a bike, Bailey didn't notice the broken sidewalk. It was estimated about two inches from the ground.

He went for a walk on Shearwater Lane when he tripped over the broken sidewalk. Bailey was in a Brandon ER for seven hours.

The Tennessee man broke his left hand and split the inside of his hand open from the fall.

“Photos (are) brutally graphic, they took them down from the neighborhood page because his finger was sliced open so the tendon was exposed,” said Mary LaRue Sweeney, Bailey's daughter.

Sweeney said she’s familiar with the broken sidewalks. She said she has complained to the county about one on Merlinglen Place for the past year, but nothing has been done.

“This is affecting everyone, in Fishhawk, and all the surrounding communities and it’s so dangerous. It’s accidents waiting to happen, and many have happened. This one hit close to home,” she said.

Sweeney said they have not filed a complaint with the county yet, but will after her father’s surgery that is scheduled for Tuesday.

The surgeon said due to how Bailey's hand was split open, he will lose the ability to grip without that hand.

“If someone were to get hurt, he would say its glad its him,” said Sweeney. “Although he’s not the only one, many have been hurt, but he wants something done about it.”

Sweeney made a post on her neighborhood page where others commented with similar stories on broken sidewalks. The post, however, was eventually taken down because of the graphic photos, she said.

Last spring, Hillsborough County told ABC Action News that they have at least 1,500 broken sidewalks in the county. They could not give an updated number on the repair list.

However, we confirmed that an estimated 200 miles of sidewalk repairs have to be made.

Last year, the county completed 15 miles of repairs and added four miles of gaps in sidewalks. At that rate, it would take at least 13 years to finish the remaining repairs.

The county said the process will speed up once the All For Transportation money is available.

The county also said they are no longer fixing just one sidewalk at a time. Once they start in a neighborhood, they will fix all the broken sidewalks simultaneously. That means the repairs take longer on the backlog - 13 years.

The All For Transportation money is tied up in litigation, and will not be heard in court until next February.

Hillsborough County sent us a statement by email:

Hillsborough County is fully committed to the principles of Vision Zero, including providing for a safe environment for pedestrians and bicyclists. In 2017, as part of the County’s 10 year Transportation Plan, the Board of County Commissioners increased funding for sidewalk repairs to approximately $3 million per year. Since the increase in funding was approved, Public Works has completed approximately 153,497 LF (29 miles) of sidewalk repairs at a total cost of $6,462,469. In FY 2019, Public Works repaired more than 19 miles of sidewalks, or enough to stretch from Citrus Park to the Florida State Fairgrounds.

This year the Board has approved a plan for use of the new Transportation Surtax funding that proposes to increase sidewalk repair funding from the current $3 million per year to approximately $ 7 million per year. This increased funding will allow Public Works to increase the amount of sidewalk repairs completed annually in the future.

The county plans to be out at Merlinglen Place and Shearwater Lane this week.

If anyone would like to report a broken sidewalk to the county, click here.