Sidewalk opponents form group

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012
— A group of Janesville neighbors has formed a political group to elect Janesville City Council members who would shelve the city's sidewalk program until further study.

Jim Fowler is an organizer of the Committee for Sensible Sidewalk. Fowler's home at 4015 Wilshire Lane is on the 2012 sidewalk program.

The 2012 sidewalk program passed the council on a 4-3 vote. One council member who was a sidewalk supporter, George Brunner, has since resigned.

Fowler spoke to council members Monday to try to convince them to delay the program until a new council is seated April 23. People in the 2012 program must build their sidewalks by private contractor by May 31 or the city will build it and bill them for the work.

The group believes the program has "significant flaws," Fowler said. His neighborhood gets little traffic or pedestrian use, he said. Residents and city staff should come together and create a new, sensible sidewalk plan, he said.

A past council, in hopes of ending sidewalk controversies, voted in 2008 to complete the city's sidewalk plan to close gaps and increase safety, especially along busy streets and on routes to schools and parks.

The city has a haphazard system of sidewalks because all residents haven't been required to build sidewalks over the years. That has created safety issues and hard feelings among residents, council members then said.

The 2008 vote came after a lengthy study and a public hearing. The plan builds about 62 miles of unfunded sidewalk and assesses adjacent property owners. The plan is laid out over seven years to give residents time to save for the expense. The council delayed implementing it until 2011 because of economic conditions.

The Committee For Sensible Sidewalk has 13-20 members, Fowler said. Its mailing address is Marklein Builders, 3435 E. Milwaukee St., Janesville.

The group mailed 190 letters to residents on the 2012 program and urges them to delay building their sidewalks, Fowler said. It encourages them to vote for four candidates who would reevaluate the sidewalk program and eliminate unnecessary sidewalks.

Letters also are being sent to residents on future sidewalk programs to make them aware that "sooner or later, they are going to be in the same boat as the people in 2012," Fowler said. "If they feel that it makes sense to work toward a reevaluation of the plan, now is the best time for them to get involved."

People didn't pay attention to council action in 2008, Fowler believes.

"I think it's fair to say, when people learn about the plan, when they're part of it, when they are having their front yard torn up or lose a tree … all of a sudden they realize, 'This is serious business,'" Fowler said.

He noted the city is spending $80,000 on sidewalks in 2012 despite the poor economy.

"This problem was created 30 years ago by other councils," Fowler said. "To tell these folks that they are going to have to fix the problem and pay for the fix—it's just not the right way to go about things."

Last updated: 7:57 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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