Sidewalk committee agrees on criteria for placement

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012
— Traffic volume has risen to the top of criteria being considered by a new Janesville committee charged with helping decide who should have sidewalks in the city.

Other criteria, in descending order of importance, include:

-- Connections to schools and bus routes.

-- Gaps in sidewalk networks.

-- Connections to retail or public facilities.

-- Population density and accident data.

-- Connections to the bike trail.

-- Connections to future development.

Isolating and weighing criteria were the first major steps for the committee formed by the city council to study the city's seven-year sidewalk plan. The sidewalk plan was halted after one year when residents due to get sidewalks in 2012 organized politically and convinced two new council members to sponsor an agenda item to halt the plan.

In addition to objective data, committee members have said secondary issues, such as a neighborhoods' expectation for sidewalks, also might play a role in whether sidewalks are built. The more subjective issues led to the sidewalk program being halted.

On Thursday, committee members are expected to see how their criteria translate to sidewalks on a map.

At future meetings, the committee might discuss and recommend to the council who should pay for the sidewalks: taxpayers or the owners of the properties where sidewalks are being installed. Property owners traditionally have been assessed the cost.

One committee member, Chuck Behm, attended only one meeting. He told The Gazette on Tuesday that he would no longer serve. He said he had the wrong impression about what the committee would study.

"The city council and the city staff already went through all this criteria," Behm said, referring to the sidewalk plan that was halted this year.

"Going back over this, to me, is a waste of my time. They're beating a dead horse over and over again," Behm said.

A look at the committee members:

Scott Bever

Nominated by: Councilman DuWayne Severson

Address: 921 Thornecrest Drive

Background: Civil engineer and real estate broker employed by Marklein Builders

Has sidewalks: Yes

Opinions about sidewalks: He said sidewalks provide a public good in some places. He has two children and likes his sidewalk, but the seven-year plan is overreaching. He understands why people who never thought they'd have sidewalks are upset.

Bever initially became involved because Marklein Builders was ordered to install sidewalks across vacant property, even though the sidewalks will be destroyed when the property is developed.

Goal in serving on the committee: To come up with a sensible and adequate plan for pedestrian traffic without overdoing it.

Dave Hyde

Nominated by: City Manager Eric Levitt

Address: 1315 Mineral Point Road

Background: Employee for the Wisconsin Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. President of the local chapter of the National Federation of the Blind.

Has sidewalks: Yes

Opinions about sidewalks: He said sidewalks make it easier for people to get around.

"I guess I like having that barrier between pedestrians and cars," he said. "I think it makes a difference."

Goal in serving on the committee: To find something that most residents can agree upon.

"We waste a lot of time and a lot of energy on sidewalks here in Janesville that could be put to other purposes," he said.

Ed Madere

Nominated by: City council president Kathy Voskuil

Address: 1135 Columbus Circle

Has sidewalks: Yes

Background: Retired city manager, including in the state of Oregon. Serves on the Janesville Plan Commission.

Opinions about sidewalks: Favorable

Goal in serving on the committee: Developing criteria by listening to the arguments on all sides to "try to make a decision that's going to be in the best interest of the residents in the affected area and the citizens as a whole."

Sam Liebert

Nominated by: City council President Kathy Voskuil

Address: Renting at 841 Milton Ave.

Has sidewalks: Yes

Background: Employed part-time by a private contractor providing security for the Rock County crisis staff. Member of the Janesville City Council. Running as a Democrat for a seat on the state Assembly.

Opinions about sidewalks: Liebert said sidewalks are an asset to the community, although he doesn't believe many in the current sidewalk program make sense. He has voted consistently against the sidewalk program because he did not believe there was enough resident input in its creation.

Goal in serving on the committee: To work with other members to "find consensus on how we appropriately and intrinsically put a value on where we need sidewalks and filling in gaps."

Tom McDonald

Nominated by: Councilman Matt Kealy

Address: 16 Marshall Place

Has sidewalks: Yes

Background: Janesville attorney and former city council member

Opinions about sidewalks: McDonald walks to work and has a young family, so he finds value in sidewalks that people who always drive might not, he said. Sidewalks are part of being in a community. Sidewalks are appropriate in most areas, but are not needed in all, he said.

Goal in serving on the committee: "I hope to help the council and the community move forward with this issue of sidewalks so it doesn't continue to be a contentious issue every year."

He hopes to explore the issue in more depth than in the past to alleviate concerns residents have had over the years.

Russ Steeber

Nominated by: City council President Kathy Voskuil

Address: 4266 Greenbriar Drive

Has sidewalks: No

Background: Retired captain of community corrections for the Rock County Sheriff's Office. Member of the Janesville City Council.

Opinions about sidewalks: The city has a sidewalk plan it never followed through with. With possibly some exceptions, the sidewalk plan "is a good one, a reasonable one, and I think the only way get through this controversy is to finish the plan and be done with it," he said.

Goal in serving on the committee: "We should have an adequate system for people to navigate through the community and one that allows accessibility. Right now, to some degree, that doesn't happen.

"The biggest thing is, I'd like to see some finality to this issue. We can't keep having this controversy year after year with no resolution," he said. "What it's doing, in my opinion, is kind of tearing the community apart."

Carol Tidwell (chairwoman)

Nominated by: Councilman Jim Farrell

Address: 3517 Hemmingway Drive

Background: Former corporate and health care law attorney for 20 years in Minnesota and a federal mediator for 12 years. She worked with labor and management groups and the users of a national park, for example.

Has sidewalks: No, but sidewalks would be paid for by a developer and are set to be installed in the future.

Opinions on sidewalks: "I understand financial concerns, but at the same time, sidewalks are a common good," she said. "And there really should be a way to balance those concerns."

Goal in serving on the committee: To come to a decision that incorporates everyone's best ideas.

Dan Warden

Nominated by: Councilman Sam Liebert

Address: 3423 Woodhall Drive

Background: Retired General Motors employee

Has sidewalks: Warden was scheduled to get them this summer before the council called a halt to the program.

Opinions about sidewalks: Sidewalks are not needed, and people don't use the ones that are there now, he said.

People get along well without them. The areas where sidewalks are needed likely already have them.

"I think there's been an evolution away from sidewalks other than in established neighborhoods," he said.

The neighbors themselves should decide and put them in on an as-needed basis, he said.

Goal in serving on the committee? To reach a consensus within the committee on the qualifying criteria for sidewalks

Bob Yeomans

Nominated by: Councilwoman Deb Dongarra-Adams

Address: 2943 Timber Lane

Background: Owns Central Vending Co.

Has sidewalks: Yeomans owns two houses, one with sidewalks and the other without.

Opinions about sidewalks: Sidewalks are great in some places, and in some places they're not needed, he said.

"The thing that irritated me about sidewalks the most is it seems as if it was overkill," he said.

Goal in serving on the committee: To design a system for the placing sidewalks that people can understand.

"I think it's an important issue that's not going away," he said.

Last updated: 8:44 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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