Sidewalk committee likely to miss deadline

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Friday, June 22, 2012
— It appeared unlikely Thursday the sidewalk committee would meet a July 9 deadline imposed by the city council.

"If the council wants to shoot us, let them," committee member Dave Hyde said with a smile. "They can start over again with a new group."

The Janesville Sidewalk Task Force Committee is charged with making recommendations on the city's contentious, seven-year sidewalk plan. The plan was halted when residents on the 2012 program organized politically and elected two new council members who suggested a task force be formed.

Committee member Tom McDonald on Thursday suggested the committee report back to the council only with its objective criteria and leave subjective criteria to the council.

Subjective criteria include whether a neighborhood's expectations should receive any weight in installing sidewalks or whether sidewalks should be built on only one side of a street. The subjective criteria have yet to be discussed.

After the meeting, McDonald said he didn't know if the members could put aside their biases to reach consensus.

At one point during Thursday's meeting, committee member and Councilman Sam Liebert questioned whether members were weighing criteria in good faith or if they were "rigging" results by delaying their responses until the end of the exercise to see what others did. He asked that any future weighting exercise be done individually and simultaneously.

Several committee members disagreed with McDonald's suggestions to leave the subjective criteria to the council.

The council appointed the committee to make the tough recommendations, committee member Scott Bever said.

"I'm not sure that's what they wanted, to throw it back in their lap," he said.

Committee member Bob Yeomans, too, said doing so would abdicate the committee's responsibility to the council.

Until Thursday, the committee seemed to be making good progress. Public Works Director Carl Weber had drawn a draft map showing how the criteria would be implemented.

But the committee continued to be sidetracked by details, such as how to categorize public facilities. For example, they debated whether a convenience store, a grocery store, a clinic or a dentist's office all should carry similar weights in measuring pedestrian traffic.

"If you're sick or not feeling well, typically you're not in the mood to walk somewhere," Bever said, theorizing that clinics likely don't attract pedestrians.

Said Hyde, who is blind: "In our city, having no other mode of transportation on the days the buses don't run, ‘Yes, you do.' "

Bever said he'd hate to see the committee push its recommendations through to meet a deadline and regret it in the future.

"Whatever criteria we come up with is going to be a precedent for the city down the road," he said.

The council set the deadline because the city already has hired a contractor to install sidewalks under the 2012 portion of the plan.

The task force has been meeting for two hours once or twice a week. The next meeting is Wednesday, when a 3 1/2-hour meeting is scheduled.

"I think … after what we did today, it's not going to happen," Chairwoman Carol Tidwell said of the deadline. "We've gone completely backwards from where we ended our last meeting.

"This is why no one wants to see how sausage is made."

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

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