The Washington City Council approved a resolution of necessity on Tuesday for the proposed East Washington Street sidewalk project even after hearing concerns from three people owning property along the route the sidewalk would take.
When a public hearing was held regarding the project, three business owners from the area addressed the council with safety concerns for pedestrians walking along the heavily trafficked area and questions about the manner in which the city assesses area properties for the projects. After the vote to approve the resolution, Mayor Jaron Rosien assured the speakers that the council would address the concerns as further planning of the project is being done. The council approved the resolution with a 5-0 vote. Council member Steve Gault was absent from the meeting.
“I realize there needs to be a sidewalk for people’s safety,” Craig Jones, owner of Ace N More, told the council. “With the location of it, I think it will be so very dangerous for people to be on. The area is 45 mph and if something goes wrong there will be very little time for drivers to be able to react to it. If we are putting a sidewalk in there, we should look at a speed zone through there.”
The project, which extends the sidewalk about 2,500 feet from its current stopping point on the south side of East Washington Street to Walmart, has been something the council has been working on for years. This year, the city has received many requests for a sidewalk along the roadway, City Administrator Brent Hinson reported. On Sept. 20, the city held a neighbor meeting and no negative comments were received.
Jones, who had not attended the meeting, said he was also concerned some of the cost was being assessed to area propertyowners. As a business owner he said the business employs 25 people and he does the best he can for their wages and this would add to the burden to pay his employees a decent wage.
“We feel that we pay taxes and we feel we should not have to encur the cost of the sidewalk,” he said.
Jones was also worried about the speed limit in the area as he sees people currently crossing the roadway where the sidewalk now exists and was concerned if they tried to cross in an area where the speed limit was higher there could be a greater chance for an accident.
The speed limit for that area of the roadway is set, and would have to be changed, by the Iowa Department of Transportation.
He also raised concerns with snow removal and the liability of the sidewalk.
Darren Rich questioned the assessments to area landowners. Hinson explained this is a practice the city has been doing for many years. He said the city uses the FLINT formula to determine the assessment. He said in this $180,000 project, only about $20,000 of the cost would be gathered through this kind of assessment.
“For where I’m at, there is absolutely no benefit from this sidewalk,” he said. “This is money out of my pocket. This is not going to increase revenues to my business at all.”
Hinson said the resolution meant the city is moving forward with the project and the assessment schedule. He said it is a legal step, but other policy adjustments can be made during the design.
Council members also discussed the need to approach Walmart and Pizza Ranch, which the proposed sidewalk leads to, to help pay for the sidewalk.