Sidewalks draw concerns
During the March 18 meeting, Washington City Administrator Brent Hinson warned the city council that putting sidewalks in people’s yards could be an unpopular decision.
On Tuesday, that was verified as many people from along South 12th Avenue attended the regular city council meeting to express concerns about a paving project along their street that the council had approved. High on the list of concerns was a 5-foot wide sidewalk that will cut through many of their front yards. Some people said they didn’t want any sidewalk, arguing that no one would even use the sidewalks. They argued that the sidewalk would run out to East Tyler Street, which has no sidewalk on it.
“I’m glad you are so considerate if this is for the benefit of the handicapped, but I want you to consider the senior citizens also and the ones paying the taxes,” resident Rosemary Luers said, during public input. “Shoveling snow from a 5-foot sidewalk is quite a burden for us as we are getting older.”
The plan to pave the east side of South 12th and the south side of East Tyler calls for five-foot sidewalks to satisfy the Americans With Disabilities Act. Luers said that she would agree with a sidewalk less than five feet across.
Over 10 people who live in the area objected to the plan during the public comment session of the meeting. Discussion lasted about 45 minutes
Resident Gene Zeck asked if there was a price difference to the homeowner to install a four-foot sidewalk instead of a five-foot sidewalk.
Engineer Leland Belding of Veenstra and Kimm Inc. said there would be a minimal difference in cost between the two.
Despite the objections being made during the public comment session, Belding was asked to further explain the project. This was not on the agenda for the meeting.
As Belding was talking, council member Bob Shellmyer asked Belding to limit his discussion to South 12th Avenue. Shellmyer also questioned the requirement for a five-foot sidewalk. Belding said that one manner the sidewalks could be done was to have four-foot sidewalks that taper out to five feet at regular intervals. He said this would make the design more difficult.
“This is the perfect opportunity to put in a sidewalk and do the driveways and make it all nice and make it all work,” he said.
He recommended the council establish a policy on sidewalks.
Shellmyer encouraged the council to listen to what the citizens wanted. Council member Jaron Rosien said he agreed.
“We are going to do everything we can to make this project work for the people of the area,” Hinson said. “We have to do that in certain constraints. We are looking at what council directions; we are looking at the ADA and other constraints.”
A community meeting on the subject will be held at 6 p.m. April 9 at the Washington High School cafeteria. Belding will be there with the plans for the project. Hinson said the point of the meeting is to explain the project and address concerns with residents.