Archive for Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Sidewalk plan suggests using federal grant

A pedestrian and a bike rider take to the street at North Second and Lyon streets in North Lawrence as the sidewalk ends. A plan to improve sidewalks in several areas of town, including North Lawrence, proposes spending federal funds appropriated through the Community Development Block Grant program.

A pedestrian and a bike rider take to the street at North Second and Lyon streets in North Lawrence as the sidewalk ends. A plan to improve sidewalks in several areas of town, including North Lawrence, proposes spending federal funds appropriated through the Community Development Block Grant program.

February 5, 2008

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City leaders in sidewalk talks

Lawrence city leaders may look to a new funding source to fill in some significant gaps in parts of the city, including an upgrade to sidewalks. Enlarge video

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Being pedestrian-friendly may create a friendly competition for scarce city dollars.

The city's Public Works Department is proposing a nearly $210,000 plan to improve sidewalks in east Lawrence and North Lawrence, but the department is asking city commissioners to fund the project with federal grant money that normally is used for the homeless, neighborhood associations and affordable housing projects.

City commissioners are expressing an interest in the program, but also are raising questions about whether it is the best use of the federal Community Development Block Grant funds that the city receives each year.

"There are an awful lot of uses for those CDBG funds already," Mayor Sue Hack said.

Hack and fellow Commissioner Boog Highberger, though, said they'll consider adding sidewalk repairs to the list. A 2006 city report found that more than 50 miles of city sidewalks are either in poor or critical condition.

"Obviously, sidewalk replacement is crucial, if we're going to build a pedestrian-friendly city," Highberger said.

The proposed program would address both gaps in the city's sidewalk system and repairs to existing sidewalks that represent tripping hazards. Here's a look at the major improvements proposed:

¢ New sidewalk on the south side of 15th Street, between Haskell Avenue and Harper Street. The area lacks a continuous sidewalk. City engineers said the sidewalk would aid pedestrians wanting to go to the East Lawrence Recreation Center, 1245 E. 15th St., Kennedy School, 1605 Davis Road, and nearby shopping areas. Estimated cost: $49,000.

¢ New sidewalk on the west side of Haskell Avenue between 15th and 23rd streets. The new sidewalk would serve bus stops in the area and make it easier for people to walk to the Independence Inc. facility and the Health Care Access clinic near 23rd Street. Estimated cost: $84,000.

¢ New sidewalk on the east side of North Seventh Street in North Lawrence. The improvements would close a gap in the sidewalk system near Lyon Park. Estimated cost: $24,500.

¢ Various small sidewalk repairs in the east Lawrence and Pinckney neighborhoods. City engineers have picked about 10 locations in need of repair. The majority are either in the area along 12th Street between Connecticut Street and Haskell Avenue or along Fourth Street between Maine Street and the Kansas River. Estimated cost: $50,000.

Typically, the small repairs in front of people's homes would be the responsibility of homeowners. But Chuck Soules, director of public works for the city, said low-income residents often have a hard time paying for the repairs, even when the city orders them to do so.

"One guy told me that he had a leaky roof, the car was in the shop, he couldn't get to work and he couldn't buy groceries," Soules said. "Spending $1,000 to fix his sidewalk was the furthest thing from his mind."

Commissioners, though, said they wanted to have more discussion about using public funds to fix sidewalks in front of people's homes. They said they wanted to be careful not to create a precedent that the city start paying for all sidewalk repairs.

"We would need to get a clear policy in place," Highberger said.

Federal regulations require that the CDBG funding be spent on areas that are designated as low-income. Soules said that worked out well for a sidewalk program, because many of the city's worst sidewalks were in old areas of town that also were designated as low-income areas.

The city receives anywhere from about $850,000 to $1.1 million a year in CDBG funding. It won't know how much money it will receive for 2008 until later this year. But already, the city has about $1 million worth of requests for the money.

The money traditionally has been a major source of funding for social service and housing providers in the community. The Lawrence Community Shelter, the Salvation Army, Independence Inc., Tenants to Homeowners, Van Go Mobile Arts and Health Care Access are all seeking funding through the grant program this year.

A city advisory board will review the funding requests and make a recommendation to city commissioners in April.

Comments

pace 7 years, 6 months ago

Good sidewalks would help a lot of people.

But Sue Hack should resign.

toefungus 7 years, 6 months ago

Hey, no bikes on the sidewalk! It is not called a sideride.

Janet Lowther 7 years, 6 months ago

At the very least, the city should support areas with low-cost housing by taking charge of the sidewalks. $1,000 to fix the sidewalk in front of a $100,000 home is a whole lot bigger bite than $1,000 to fix the sidewalk in front of a $250,000 home.

I'd suggest full city support for single family homes with a market value of less than $125,000, phasing out to where the owner was fully responsible at values over $250,000. Or perhaps, full coverage for sidewalks in front of (single family) homes in the bottom 20% of valuations, phasing out to around the 40th or 50th percentile of valuations.

tir 7 years, 6 months ago

Sidewalks that are for public use should be the city's responsibility, like public streets and roads. Everyone in the city uses the public streets and they are maintained using tax money. Public sidewalks should be maintained with public funds. To stick individual homeowners with the cost is wrong and unfair.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 6 months ago

If my memory serves me well those funds cannot be used to repair sidewalks associated with rental properties because rental properties are considered commercial. Slumlords are not low income... they just don't give a damn.

Instead of building a sewage treatment plant for the home builders Lawrence should take care of existing infrastructure. Let the homebuilders pay for the sewage treatment plant because they are the ones that want to create new neighborhoods for huge profits. Lawrence does not need new neighborhoods

What could $88 million or less accomplish? Invest in existing infrastructure instead of allowing it to become a victim of neglect for which I offer suggestions:

*Rehab streets and sidewalks in: Downtown Old west Lawrence Old East Lawrence Barker Brookcreek North Lawrence Oread

*Develop an exciting public transportation plan complete with an appropriate maintenance facility

*Build a $17.5 million dollar library across the street from the New Hampshire parking garage(saves $10 million) and makes a failed TIF project somewhat successful.

*Convert the existing library building into a convention center which saves millions and millions over any new plan and prevents another TIF project funding a private profit making venture. When library shelves and office space is removed there is a huge space. Lawrence does not need an extravagant new building. It could easily house two large meeting spaces and two small. Clean it up, remodel, landscape, landscape,landscape and Lawrence is set to go.

*Provide initial funding for development of an economic growth team in city hall.

*Build the east Lawrence hike and bike trail

*Investing in existing infrastructure is a dependable economic growth plan which pays back and is good for business.

jumpin_catfish 7 years, 6 months ago

I'm with 75x55, fed monies for local sidewalk repair. Madness, simply madness!

toefungus 7 years, 6 months ago

Could convicts be used to replace and build sidewalks?

Jeremy Lichtenauer 7 years, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

justthefacts 7 years, 6 months ago

Any time any money is spent, it came from someone's pockets, unless you think the government grows it on trees (printing presses) somewhere?

So, who decides what money to take from others, to spend elsewhere? The government.

And just like a lot of American people and families, the governments (local, state and federal) have gotten used to spending more and making less. Robbing Peter to pay Paul. Living on credit. Borrowing from the future.

That cannot continue forever. Eventually, the family, person, or government will go bankrupt. Unless they tighten their belts, pay off their debts, and live on a cash basis forever after!

I don't hold out much hope. Most people have not only gotten used to a certain high level of services provided to society by government(s) but have come to demand more every year. And never mind who is paying for it or who will have to pay for it in the future!

A lot of people fear and attempt to avoid a recession. But what happens to anything that never stops growing; be it a person, an organism, or an ecomony? It explodes and dies!! So, at the risk of seeming gloomy, I say "bring on the cut backs!" It's either learn to live with less or learn to not live at all!

Richard Heckler 7 years, 6 months ago

When I sat on the CDBG committee the rule was sidewalks could be repaired for live in homeowners not commercial residential properties.

pace 7 years, 6 months ago

I think all the churches who have decided to prey on us through their tax free base, should have to commit volunteers to build sidewalks. If they want to legislate our lifes, make them make material contributions.

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