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Trees, landscape among Milton sidewalk worries

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Stacy Vogel
January 23, 2008
— Some are upset about uprooted trees.

Others are angry about losing landscaping.


And of course, no one likes to shovel snow.


But of all the reasons Milton residents have to oppose new sidewalks, the bill isn't one of them. Unlike the city of Janesville, Milton does not level special assessments to install sidewalks on existing streets.


Instead, the city uses general funds to pay for sidewalk installation in front of homes built before July 25, 1996. Any home built since 2002 must include sidewalks as part of a developer's agreement.


For homes built between 1996 and 2002, the city has the right to assess residents for sidewalk installation, but that doesn't mean it will, said Howard Robinson, director of public works.


Even though the money comes from city funds, the cost bothers Fred Hookham. The Milton resident doesn't even live in the Green Hill subdivision, epicenter for most of the recent sidewalk controversy. But he still came to an informational sidewalk meeting at the city municipal center Tuesday.


Hookham is angry that sidewalks will be installed in the subdivision when they're needed more elsewhere, he said.


"I'm just a taxpayer concerned about wasting money on worthless sidewalks," he said.


During debates this fall, opponents said it was foolish to put sidewalks in a quiet subdivision when they don't exist near all the schools and business areas in the city.


Robinson made it clear at Tuesday's meeting that the city doesn't intend to have that debate again.


"The plans that are up there are pretty much the plans that are going to bid," he said.


The city intends to send the plans out for bid next week, he said.


That doesn't satisfy Carol Johnson. She has been leading the charge against sidewalks in Green Hill for months, and she's upset that the sidewalk plan will damage landscaping in her yard.


The new sidewalk will interfere with a rock wall she's spent years creating, she said. The city told her it probably will replace the rock wall with a cement retaining wall.


"You're ruining the vision of our property," Johnson told Robinson on Tuesday. "It's going to lower our property value."


But to Mayor Nate Bruce, the sidewalk issue is a question of fairness. The city's policy is to install sidewalks on both sides of the street when a street is repaved, he said.


Before the city reached its current sidewalk policy, it would decide on a case-by-case basis whether to level special assessments against residents for their sidewalks.


"We'd really fill the council chambers then," Bruce said.


Nowadays, residents might get mad about sidewalks, but they usually get over it, said Bob Clift.


Clift questioned the need for sidewalk in front of his home on Rainbow Drive last year, but he's come to accept it, he said.


"Most of us calmed down over the last year when we realized the sidewalks were going in no matter what," he said.


CONSTRUCTION SCHEDULE

Milton's 2008 street construction schedule:


Jan. 29: Projects go out for bid.


Feb. 26: Bids are due.


March 18: City council approves bids.


Mid to late April: Construction begins.


Late August: Construction ends.



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