City council agrees with committee's call on section of sidewalk
JANESVILLE The Janesville City Council on Monday voted to install more than two miles of sidewalk on the 2012 program and also directed the sidewalk committee it appointed to continue its work.
That despite doubts by at least one council member that the committee could reach a consensus on the remaining 2012 program.
Three committee members at Monday's meeting asked that they be allowed to finish their work, and most of the other council members agreed.
The sidewalk committee was formed when the council halted a controversial seven-year program after residents protested. The council gave the committee until Monday to return with a recommendation for this year's program.
Monday, the council gave the committee the two-week extension it asked for. That is likely the latest a contractor could put in sidewalks this year.
City Manager Eric Levitt praised committee members, saying the decision on two miles of sidewalk is an accomplishment in itself.
The committee is a diverse group that was asked to reach consensus, Levitt said.
"You have a lot of views on sidewalks," he said. "I think this committee very much reflects that community-wide opinion, and it's going to take (more than 45 days) to solve a 40-year problem."
Councilman Russ Steeber, who also is on the sidewalk committee, said repeatedly the committee would fail in applying more subjective "filters" to the remaining streets on the program.
The committee already has agreed to objective criteria involving traffic and density. However, the more subjective criteria include whether residents want the sidewalks and cost versus benefits. The committee has not yet decided how to define and apply those criteria.
Levitt said one could argue that even the objective criteria was subjective in some of the assumptions made, such as the quarter-mile radius around schools.
"Let us finish what we've started," committee member Scott Bever said, adding the members now have the needed background. "I'd hate to see work not proceed and not get done properly.
"I really think within a few more meetings, we'll have most of this done."
But Steeber and council President Kathy Voskuil questioned whether filters could work because of their subjective nature.
Voskuil said she believes the committee already has completed its work with the criteria. The council could move on to discuss financing options, she said.
"I want to have some closure for the citizens of Janesville for 2012," she said.
Councilman and sidewalk committee member Sam Liebert urged council members to stop debating streets and criteria and give edicts to the committee.
"I think we need to let the process work itself out before we start cherry picking … what we want and don't want," Liebert said.
"I am not willing to predict the downfall of the committee," committee member Dan Warden said. "I would not want to see us micromanaged tonight, either."
"Let's just have the process work itself out," Councilman DuWayne Severson urged. He and Councilman Jim Farrell sponsored the motion that halted the 2012 program.
"I think it will show we, as a community, can have these consensus opportunities," Severson said.
Liebert was the only council member to vote against installing the two miles of sidewalk because he believed the recommendation was premature.
"We haven't talked about some of the filters, some of the more marginal streets and haven't addressed the financing part," he said.
Farrell did not attend Monday's meeting.
The sidewalk committee will meet next at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday in City Hall, 18 N. Jackson St.