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Janesville sidewalks getting special meeting

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
April 20, 2012
— Janesville’s sidewalk war appears to be escalating, just when some city council members thought peace might some day reign.

The council has scheduled a special meeting Monday, April 30, to talk only about sidewalks.


The council will take up other business at its regular meeting Monday, April 23.


The sidewalk fight has new punch because residents who are being asked to pay for and build sidewalks this year organized politically.


The Committee for Sensible Sidewalks interviewed candidates and then endorsed them with the hopes that the winners would revisit the 2012 plan. Committee members include attorney Jim Fowler, Bob and Nancy Kimball, Scott Bever, Lon Haenel, Dan Warden and Jeanice Fox.


Two new council members have advanced the agenda item for discussion April 30.


The Committee for Sensible Sidewalks drafted a resolution to delay the sidewalk plan until it can be reconsidered. The resolution is included in the council’s agenda packet.


The deadline for residents to install sidewalks using private contractors is May 31. After that, the city will install them with its contractor.


Residents who want to speak on sidewalks—either for or against—will have time at the April 30 meeting.


Considering past votes and answers from candidates on the campaign trail, the sidewalk program approved in 2008 could very well be delayed or canceled.


Council members are split on the issue:


-- Kathy Voskuil and Russ Steeber remain in support.


-- Matt Kealy said he would not have voted for the original plan but will not vote against the wishes of a previous council.


-- Deb Dongarra-Adams and Sam Liebert have voted against sidewalks.


-- Jim Farrell said he does not support sidewalks.


-- DuWayne Severson said he would delay the plan until the economy improves.


The sidewalk plan was approved in 2008 when the council, weary of contentious public hearings and convinced sidewalks improve safety and access for handicapped people, approved closing gaps in the city’s sidewalk network. Some planned segments were never built because of resident opposition.


The plan to build 63 miles of sidewalk was spread over seven years to give residents time to save for the expense.


The council then delayed the program for two years because of the poor economy.


City Manager Eric Levitt said the council had several options April 30:


-- Continue the 2012 program as originally approved.


-- Extend the May 31 deadline so residents have more time to build their own sidewalks.


-- Rescind this year’s order to build sidewalks.


-- Reconsider the entire sidewalk program. That would include a variety of options, such as creating a task force to study the issue.


Levitt does not yet know if staff will issue a recommendation to the council.


The issue is complicated because the council already has contracted with a company to build sidewalks. Levitt said staff is investigating what, if any, ramifications would occur if the city breaks its contract.


Residents in 2011 built sidewalks during the first year of the program, and some residents on this year’s plan already have installed sidewalks.


Fowler said his group believes the city violated its own policies when it did not in 2008 notify every resident who is part of the seven-year plan.


Residents were told via the media and city publications to check the plan on the city’s website.


Residents are given notice individually in the year the sidewalks are scheduled to be built.


Fowler said his group sent letters to residents in the 2012 sidewalk program warning them not to build sidewalks because the committee was pushing hard for the plan to be rescinded.


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:


-- Direction on a proposal to allow the Janesville Noon Lions Club to install gumball machines in city facilities. Staff recommends the city not take a cut of the profits, considering the revenue is low and the club donates money and volunteer labor to the city. City Manager Eric Levitt warned that allowing the Lions to sell gumballs in city facilities could set a precedent that would allow private vendors to make money selling products at city facilities without any direct benefit to the city.


-- Action on a TIF agreement with ANGI Energy Systems, currently located in Milton. The company would lease 215,00 square feet at 305 W. Delavan Drive. It would relocate 108 jobs and create 25 additional jobs over the first three years. The company is a family-owned manufacturer of compressed natural gas equipment. The council will consider a $215,000 forgivable loan based on employment benchmarks.


-- Action to enter into a golf facility use agreement with The First Tee of South Central Wisconsin. First Tee was established by the World Golf Foundation in 1997 to create affordable access to the sport. The city would offer discounted greens fees for participants. Blackhawk Golf Course is a good location for junior programming because of its relative short length and the adjacent practice facility. A goal is to reduce the city’s general fund subsidy of the golf courses by increasing play by involving people who do not currently golf.


COUNCIL CONTACTS

Got an opinion on sidewalks? Residents can contact Janesville City Council members at:


-- Deb Dongarra-Adams, (608) 754-1884 or dongarraadamsd@ci.janesville.wi.us


-- Jim Farrell, (608) 289-9407 or farrellj@ci.janesville.wi.us


-- Matt Kealy, (608) 563-2090 or kealym@ci.janesville.wi.us


-- Sam Liebert, (608) 718-4541 or lieberts@ci.janesville.wi.us


-- DuWayne Severson, (608) 290-7566 or seversonda@ci.janesville.wi.us


-- Russ Steeber, (608) 758-1631 or steeberr@ci.janesville.wi.us


-- Kathy Voskuil, (608) 754-7116 or voskuilk@ci.janesville.wi.us



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