City seeks accessible sidewalks

Sunday, August 15, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:57 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

An increase of more than $325,000 for the development of sidewalks and pedways, particularly downtown and in areas of the First Ward, is part of City Manager Ray Beck’s proposed budget for fiscal 2005.

Bringing the city into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act is a top priority, said John Glascock, chief engineer for the Public Works Department. Even downtown is still missing wheelchair cuts and ramps in some places, he said, adding, however, that the city always has “money in the budget for downtown and the First Ward: They’re the oldest parts of town.”

Carrie Gartner, director of the Downtown Columbia Associations, lamented that stairs remain on some sections of downtown sidewalks. While many of the problems with downtown sidewalks have been addressed, she said some areas are still badly in need of repair.

Gartner said the Special Business District has been working since 2000 to have the city put more money toward downtown sidewalks.

“There’s a lot of construction that needs to be done,” Gartner said, “but not a lot of money.”

Gartner said that a walk down Tenth Street downtown brought her to some bad spots. Outside of Gold’s Gym, for example, the walk was “crumbling under my feet,” she said. The very next block, beside The Shoe Box, the sidewalk was just as bad, she said.

“We worked so hard to make downtown accessible,” Gartner said. “This is the pedestrian area. If we don’t do it here, what does that say about our goal of making this a pedestrian-friendly city?”

To help pedestrians get around the First Ward, Glascock said, gaps in the sidewalk in old First Ward neighborhoods will probably be retrofitted. Until the budget is approved, however, he’s unsure about exactly what will be done with the money.

Downtown property owners pay 100 percent of the cost of sidewalk maintenance, but in most residential areas, homeowners split the cost of maintenance with the city 50-50, Gartner said.

While Glascock said the cost is often split between the city and residents, the city will work with First Ward residents to help defray costs. He said Community Development Block Grant money can be used, for example, and some landlords who rent their properties end up sharing more of the cost with the city.

The total amount proposed for street and sidewalk maintenance, repair and construction for fiscal 2005, which begins Oct. 1, is nearly $9.3 million. In 2004, the budget for streets and sidewalks was $8.24 million.

The budget is subject to approval of the City Council, which will hold the first in a series of public hearings on the budget Monday night. Themeeting begins at 6:30 p.m., a half-hour earlier than normal, and will be held in the fourth-floor council chambers at the Daniel Boone Building, 701 E. Broadway.

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