Janesville71.4°

No sidewalks this year: Manager

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
January 19, 2008
— City Manager Steve Sheiffer has suggested that the city build no sidewalks this year other than those already paid for by developers.

Instead, the city would take this year to catch up on its backlog of sidewalks in disrepair.


Only sidewalks already paid for by developers and scheduled to be built would be installed.


Sheiffer has told the council several times that he is uncomfortable choosing which streets should get sidewalks. That’s because the city has had no consistent policy over the years, requiring only some people to pay for and maintain sidewalks.


In 2006, the council voted that all new streets get sidewalks on both sides of the street.


And on Monday, the council adopted a 30-year sidewalk plan to build 62 miles in seven years. The sidewalks have been planned but not paid for, so residents would be assessed for the cost. That plan, however, still would not put sidewalk on even one side of every street.


Council members decided Monday to delay implementation of the plan until 2009, giving residents time to save for the sidewalks that they may be asked to build.


The council Monday authorized a small sidewalk project in 2008. They asked Sheiffer and his staff to choose sidewalks based on pressing public safety issues or those sidewalks petitioned by residents.


But Sheiffer said in a memo that staff has received no petitions for sidewalks from residents. And staff took care of pressing safety needs last year.


“The reason to have sidewalks on all streets is for public safety,” Sheiffer wrote in a memo to council members.


“For us to select individual streets that do not have sidewalks and indicate that they are a public safety concern different from other streets is not truly feasible or appropriate from a fairness standpoint,” he said.


At a study session in September, Sheiffer said it is not good government to have staff in some back room choosing which sidewalks would be built. He said he was having difficulty answering residents who asked why they must have sidewalks while others don’t.


Sheiffer said his staff in 2008 instead would concentrate on sidewalk repair and replacement.


The city has a backlog of complaints dating to 2001 totaling about 5.4 miles.


Residents will be notified if their sidewalks need repair or replacement. Once a resident is notified, the property owner has 30 days to complete the repair. If the owner fails to do so, the city can repair the sidewalk and bill the property owner or place a lien on the property.


The council will not vote on these locations. It will only be asked to vote for a construction contract.


Staff this year also will write a year-to-year schedule of when the 62 new miles will be built to give residents as much advance notice as possible.


The city has been divided into nine sectors, and segments from each sector will be chosen each year. The adopted plans calls for about a mile a year from each area, but that would likely be accelerated to meet the shortened implementation period.


Residents who are on each annual sidewalk project will have a chance to address the council at a public hearing.


MAP ONLINE
To see Janesville’s adopted sidewalk plan, go to www.gazettextra.com/sidewalks.

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