Last night after a spirited debate over a variety of matters, the Common Council voted 6-0 to table a bid acceptance to construct a 230-foot sidewalk connecting subdivisions south and southeast of FHS to the school. This proposal came before the Council after months of earlier discussion that started when a homeowner wanted to build a path along the border of his property for students rather than the alternative of nothing.
In the beginning, the homeowner's proposal went before the Board of Public Works. He proposed to the committee his willlingness to build and plow it, and was only seeking reimbursement for materials. Instead of approving his request, the Board made the decision to explore a variety of options for the sidewalk, which was found to also be on city right-of-way via an easement. Alderman Schmidt agreed to reach out to the school district for their input and connection options. In concluding their review, the Board decided that a concrete sidewalk would be easier to maintain and made a council recommendation to fund a more permenant walk. The city also received a letter from the school district's Buildings & Grounds Director in favor of this proposal, stating to move forward with the district covering 40% of the costs.
Previously, on June 21st, the Council authorized staff by a vote of 6-0 to seek bids for this project, which ultimately resulted in the lowest bid being lower than staff's projected cost. The contractor also gave assurances that with Council and school district approval, they could complete the sidewalk prior to FHS starting classes in September. Despite the 6-0 support in June, last night's meeting took a different path. Instead of finalizing the project and awarding the bid, some aldermen and the mayor decided to question the project funding and, unfortunately, gave negative feedback toward the sidewalk.
Alderman Olson was perhaps the most critical, keeping in-line with his stance on being opposed to public funding for pedestrian access to the high school (Olson was the lone NO vote in 2009 for the sidewalk now in front of FHS). The sidewalk totals $11,981.70 (the city's share being $7,189.02). Olson kicked off the opposition by questioning the funding and the mayor said he had a good point. Both suggested this (extravagent) cost should be in the city's upcoming 2012 budget.
Then, in a stunner, Mayor Taylor handed the gavel over to CCP Taylor to note when he was aldermen 10+ years ago, there was strong opposition to a sidewalk connecting to Forest Hill Drive, and thus he would potentially review any Council approval of this project. I'd assume this "review" to potentially be a Mayoral veto. This likely shifted a few aldermanic votes, with Alderman Skowronski then joining in being rather negative towards the project, of which he practically closed his arguments by stating that the city has other more important things to discuss and talk about. CCP Taylor's vote went from a what looked to be likely YES vote to one where he ultimately came out in being a proponent to just table the measure. All of this comes on the heels of the Council approving a $1.3 million capital project to build a booster pumping station at the Puetz Road water tower. Alderwoman Wilhelm noted she saw this as a joint project in working with the school district rather than past tension between the two governmental bodies, but wanted any motion to include a contingency or confirmation of School Board approval just as the Council would expect from city employees toward any project.
The high school students certainly could use the access, and the homeowners are not only supportive, but they were actually the ones who initiated the conversation. Now as school starts in less than a month, the Council remains deadlocked on whether or not they're comfortable in supporting spending $7000 for a sidewalk connection to the high school.
In closing, I would like to note the proclamation congratulating the Saber Baseball team was supposed to be covered on the agenda last night. Naturally, the proclamation makes aldermen and the mayor beam with community pride, but I have to ask: Where's the real support for the students when it truly counts?