Janesville sidewalk committee finishes half its job
Click here to view the recommendations of the Janesville Sidewalk Task Force on 200 sections of city sidewalk.
The council will decide Monday which residents will get noticed of possible sidewalk.
A public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10, in City Hall, 18 N. Jackson St.
Residents who are dropped from the existing seven-year sidewalk plan will also be notified.
JANESVILLE After 18 meetings, Janesville's sidewalk committee appears to have found its groove and will make recommendations for next year's sidewalk program.
The committee will recommend the city:
-- Build 5.9 miles of sidewalk in Zones 1 and 2 on the east side. The council in 2008 had approved 10.4 miles. Of the 5.9 miles, .4 miles is recommended to be deferred until development or for three years, and 3.2 miles have already been built.
-- Build 8.7 miles in Zones 7 and 8 on the near west and south sides. About .9 miles of that is deferred until future development. The original plan called for 11.6 miles to be built.
The council is scheduled to vote on the recommendations Monday and schedule public hearings Monday, Dec. 10.
The sidewalk committee will take a break and then begin scrutinizing sidewalks planned for the rest of the city in future years.
"Hopefully, it's going to go a little bit faster for the rest of the city," said Carl Weber, public works director. "They kind of got a rhythm going."
In 2008, council members approved a seven-year plan to build about 60 miles of sidewalk for safety reasons and to connect neighborhoods and public facilities. The program was delayed until 2011 because of the economy.
The council formed the sidewalk study committee in 2012 after some residents on the 2012 plan convinced new council members to halt it until further study.
Sidewalks are contentious for several reasons: Abutting property owners must pay for them; some residents didn't think they'd ever have them; and some residents question why sidewalks are planned for their side and not the other side of the street.
The council in 2006 passed an ordinance requiring all new subdivisions to have sidewalk on both sides of the street.
The sidewalk committee was organized on a "consensus model," meaning that all involved agree to the eventual decisions. The committee threatened to implode several times when members—who held a variety of opinions about sidewalks—could not agree.
Committee members Bob Yeomans and Ed Madere were steadfast in believing the committee could reach consensus.
Resident Jim Fowler, the man who organized the push that led to the committee's creation, said members have done "excellent" work and "came together" the last two meetings.
Committee members spent much time creating valuable criteria and then figuring out how to apply them, Fowler noted. The criteria allowed the members to rank the sidewalks.
The turning point seemed to occur when committee members agreed to disagree.
Members opted to simply forward to the council the streets on which they could reach no consensus. But the streets' rankings are also included in the information and, depending on where the ranking falls, includes a presumption the sidewalks will or won't be built.
For instance, most committee members agreed sidewalks should be built on both sides along Wuthering Hills Drive. Scott Bever and Dan Warden, meanwhile, noted several segments fell below the cutoff to install them. Those streets were forwarded with no recommendation and no presumption they would be built.
Fowler said he and his group wonder whether the council will take a "hard look, street by street" at those with no recommendations.
"The committee did an awful lot of work to winnow it down to a very manageable number," Fowler said.
The committee also switched some sidewalk from one side of the street to the other because members believed it made more sense.
Also, the committee recommended residents who live along local streets get 10 years or until they move to install ordered sidewalks.
Committee facilitator Carol Tidwell said the committee ultimately worked because "both sides really had to give."
Madere said the committee was successful because it brought together people with varying beliefs about sidewalks but produced a "give and take."
He lauded Tidwell's "strong leadership (that) helped … bring everybody together in a civil manner. We were able to come up with a reasonable plan."
The committee's most important accomplishment is the criteria that can be applied to any future review of sidewalks, Madere said.
"Patience prevailed," Yeomans said. "Both Ed and I had a great deal of faith in how consensus would work, and it turned out it did."
Madere proposed the idea for the 10-year deferment, and that might have helped some committee members agree more easily to sidewalks, Yeomans said.
The December public hearing will allow residents a chance to bring to the council anything the committee might have missed, he said.
Council to consider financing changes
Sidewalk financing is also on Monday's Janesville City Council agenda.
The city's sidewalk committee forwarded several recommendations for possible changes in how sidewalks are financed, including that:
-- The city pay for the cost of sidewalk repair. Manager Eric Levitt recommends against that option, although he said he doesn't "totally oppose" it.
The city, though, has many other financial obligations, such as repairing streets, and limited money to pay for them, he said.
Estimated cost is $165,000 a year.
-- The city pay for new sidewalk if the administration could find a fair and equitable way to make that happen. Levitt recommends against that option, considering many residents have already paid for their sidewalks. He didn't think it is fair that they pay for others' sidewalks in their property taxes, as well.
-- The city pay administrative and engineering costs for sidewalks rather than add the costs to the per-foot fee people pay if they install sidewalk using the city's construction program. Levitt favors that recommendation.
"The people who go private essentially get underwritten by those that pay for it through the assessment project," Levitt said.