Sidewalk committee struggles on
JANESVILLE Janesville's sidewalk committee might have removed itself from life support Wednesday after members agreed to a concept to allow residents on local streets to delay installation for either 10 years or until they move.
Facilitator Carol Tidwell said the concept takes the sticky issue of property-owner preference out of the discussion.
The city council charged the committee with making recommendations on its controversial seven-year sidewalk plan. The committee operates on a consensus model, which means members all must be able to live with the recommendations.
During previous meetings, members had agreed on objective criteria to rank sidewalk segments. Criteria include proximity to schools and whether streets are arterial, collector or local.
Several committee members continued to urge the rest to consider whether property owners want the sidewalks, creating a roadblock to consensus.
Tidwell called property-owner preference a "gigantic water balloon sitting over the group," agreeing the last meeting was "frustrating" and "painful."
"We were trying to do something that essentially is not doable," she said.
Not coming to consensus on property-owner preference created a "significant stumbling block for a number of people," she said.
Committee member Ed Madere noted people tell him they don't want sidewalks because they have lived in their homes for years without them and prefer not to have any.
He suggested the city not order people who live on local streets to put in sidewalks until they move.
Committee member Sam Liebert and Public Works Director Carl Weber suggested the period be lowered to 10 years. Weber cited a common statistic that people move every seven years.
"Over time, the city meets its objective," Weber said.
People who live on arterial and collector streets could not opt out for the decade.
"How does this help us decide whether sidewalks go somewhere?" member Scott Bever asked.
The committee can go through its process of deciding what street sections should have sidewalks without being concerned about owner preference because the owner can opt out, Tidwell said.
Committee and council member Russ Steeber was reluctant to agree, saying the plan doesn't address what council members wanted to address when it passed the sidewalk program in 2008. One goal was to close gaps in the sidewalk network, he said.
Steeber begrudgingly agreed to the suggestion if people who live on streets with sidewalk gaps are not given the 10-year grace period. A gap is defined as one block or less without sidewalks.
The next committee meeting is 2:30 p.m. Monday, and City Manager Eric Levitt recommended all members be there to apply the "do or die" issue.
He figured that at the next meeting, "either the committee is going to be dissolved or they will come to a conclusion," Levitt said.