Janesville City Council approves 2013 sidewalk plan
JANESVILLE It might be just as telling to note who was not at Monday's Janesville City Council meeting as who was: about another 50 residents and a dozen speakers.
Twelve residents spoke in opposition to recommendations by the city's sidewalk committee to build an additional 8.5 miles in 2013, a move that would affect 370 property owners.
But those who came to Monday's meeting were fewer than the number that came to past hearings.
It's possible residents didn't show up because they figured the council would accept the unanimous recommendations from a group created due to resident demands. The committee is composed of residents both for and against sidewalks.
The council—with the exception of Deb Dongarra-Adams, who has never supported sidewalks—voted to install all but a few small segments of the sidewalks as part of its seven-year program. The plan is aimed at closing sidewalk gaps in the city, improving safety and connecting pedestrians to neighborhoods and public facilities.
Residents who live along 4.6 miles of streets classified as "local" can defer installation for 10 years, until they move or until 80 percent of the surrounding sidewalks are built.
Costs for sidewalks are charged to property owners, which is one reason residents oppose them. Other reasons given include that they wouldn't be used; that no small children live in those neighborhoods; that they would ruin landscaping; and that residents would be forced out of their homes because of the expense.
On Monday, several residents facing sidewalk installments threatened to move. One speaker said he would be building sidewalk so pedestrians could get to Palmer Park but that the park itself has no sidewalk. He also was not happy that his sidewalk installation was moved ahead three years.
In the end, only four segments—suggested by council and committee member Russ Steeber—were referred back to the committee. Steeber said he wanted committee members to take a second look at several areas in which it planned for sidewalk on the opposite side of the street than was in the original plan. He also said he was concerned about terrain in those areas.
Those segments were:
-- The east and west sides of South Washington Street from Conde Street to Edison Middle School.
-- The south side of Riverview Drive from South Willard Avenue to Lustig Park.
-- The west side of North Waveland road from Bond Place to Mineral Point Avenue.
Councilman Matt Kealy cautioned the council against removing streets piecemeal.
"I supported this community out of the gate," he said. "If you start going against their recommendations on this, is there a need for this committee going forward?"
Kealy stressed that all committee members unanimously supported the recommendations. Councilman Jim Farrell agreed.
"I have a great deal of confidence in what they've done," Farrell said. If anything, the council should send the streets back with their concerns rather than remove them from the plan, he added.
"If they review it, and there is reason to remove it, they will do it," he said.
Councilman DuWayne Severson agreed the council had to be careful in taking apart the work the committee had done. He noted that he and Farrell were the two council members who started the whole process, "for better or worse."
Severson said he wouldn't have any of the sidewalks in his "perfect world" because he doesn't think they are needed.
"But I'm compelled to support this because I need to honor the process," he said. "In the world we live in, that's what you have to work with."
The council also voted to lower the interest rate from 4.5 to 3 percent for those who borrow from the city to install. That rate is equal to the one set for the 2012 sidewalk program.
The sidewalk committee was not able to agree on several stretches of sidewalk. Those segments will come before the council in March.