Janesville14.5°

Sidewalk plan heading back to city council

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
October 22, 2011
— The proposed 2012 sidewalk program will return to the Janesville City Council on Monday, nearly a month after residents filled council chambers in protest.

The council closed the public hearing Sept. 26 but delayed the vote because only six of seven council members were present.


The seven-year sidewalk program is based on a priority rating system, and this year was the first year it was implemented. The goal is to build 63 miles of unfunded sidewalk.


This year, about 4.7 miles of new sidewalk was installed with the cost assessed to about 120 property owners. Next year’s program affects about 200 property owners and includes 5.1 miles of new sidewalk.


Sidewalks have been controversial because some property owners are required to have them and others are not.


Through the years, council members often voted against sidewalks requested by staff or other residents because property owners filled council chambers and complained. Residents without sidewalks do not want to pay for, maintain and shovel them.


In recent years, the majority of council members decided at least some sidewalks are needed for public safety. Residents in wheelchairs or those who are visually handicapped especially need sidewalks, they said.


The 2006 council voted to require that homes in all new subdivisions be built with sidewalks. The council in 2008 voted to fill gaps and to complete the sidewalk plan across seven years so residents would have ample notice.


Council members at that time hoped the seven-year plan would ease political pressure at the yearly public hearings.


The council in 2009 and 2010 delayed implementing the seven-year program because of the economy.


In 2011, mostly commercial property owners are affected, and about 10 protested the assessments.


For 2012, the plan would affect mostly residential properties, and people filled council chambers Sept. 26.


Residents spoke of the expense, especially during hard economic times, and the damage to their landscaping. They said the sidewalk plan doesn’t make sense; that they live in quiet neighborhoods with no need for sidewalks. They also said people walk in the streets, anyway, even with sidewalks, and that they were promised there would never be sidewalks in their subdivisions.


“What are the criteria, what are the statistics, what is the information that is sufficient to demonstrate a public benefit to this proposed sidewalk?” Jim Fowler, 4015 Wilshire Lane, asked, noting the sidewalk’s “serious cost.”


“What is the general overall rational for proceeding with this plan? What is their rationale for determining that the owner of the lot on one side will get an assessment and the owner of the other side will not?”


Council President George Brunner said the sidewalk plan would make sense when all the parts are connected. But two new council members, Sam Liebert and Deb Dongarra-Adams, weren’t convinced. They said they would not support the 2012 plan.


Council members Russ Steeber and Brunner backed the plan while Tom McDonald and Kathy Voskuil said nothing. Yuri Rashkin was absent.


ON THE AGENDA


The Janesville City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday in City Hall, 18 N. Jackson St.


Items on the agenda include:


- Authorization of a Tax Increment Financing agreement for a forgivable loan of $100,000 to United Alloy, 4100 Kennedy Road, for a 21,000 square-foot addition.


Construction costs are estimated at $750,000 to $800,000. The company employs 86 full-time employees and would hire another 32 after construction. Average wage is $18 plus benefits. United Alloy manufactures diesel fuel tanks, generator frames and heavy metal fabrications.


TIF 25 would provide the funding. If the loan is approved, the TIF is projected to have a positive balance of $386,122 in 2024, its final year. The annual waiver of debt would be based on tax increment generated and employment levels.


- Approval to demolish the house at 159 Cherry St. The city bought the home for $47,500 with federal stimulus money meant for neighborhood stabilization with the intention of renovating the home.


When the city bought the home, it appeared to be in fairly good condition, Kelly Lee of neighborhood services, said in a memo.


“However, since that time, we have discovered a serious concern with the brick. Just prior to our acquisition, the brick had been freshly painted. Unfortunately, that paint sealed moisture into the brick, resulting in significant deterioration of the structural brick,” she said.


The money to demolish the building would come from the same federal funds.


- Approval to borrow $14 million for capital projects.



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