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City debates adding sidewalks to project

By Staff | Dec 25, 2011

Sidewalks or no sidewalks. Or maybe just some sidewalks.

That is the question the Blue Earth City Council is wrestling with as they plan their street and sewer improvement project for 2012.

Next year’s work will be on a nine block area on Gorman and 12th streets.

Newly named Blue Earth city engineer Wes Brown presented the feasibility study to the City Council at last Monday’s regular meeting.

The feasibility study included cost estimates for all of the various components of the work, from sewer and water lines to reconstruction of the streets.

“The overall project will be in the $2 million range,” Brown says. “There will be 59 parcels of property affected. The average assessment to each homeowner will be $8,700.”

But, it was the item listing all of the sidewalk work that caused the most questions from the council.

“Some of this area now has sidewalks on one side of the street only,” Councilman John Gartzke says. “Sometimes the sidewalks are only on part of the block.”

Councilman Rick Scholtes, a member of the Street Committee, says that group decided to include sidewalks on both sides.

“We discussed whether to have them on one side or the other, but then at the end we opted to put both in the plan,” he says. “We figured the council could decide where the sidewalks should be.”

Gartzke says there are areas of town with no sidewalks, and wondered whether residents of the project area even wanted sidewalks on their property.

City Administrator Kathy Bailey pointed out another issue.

“Some of the homes in this area are built close to the street,” she says. “That means a sidewalk would be constructed within five feet of the front of the house in some cases – they would have no front yard.”

She pointed out that the homes were built way before there were setback requirements.

Councilman John Huisman also deplored the fact that there were so many power poles – some of them new – which need to be moved.

“I understand there are 48 poles that have to be moved, at a cost of $100,000,” he says. “Isn’t there any other solution, like not making the streets as wide?”

To read more of this story, see this week’s Faribault County Register.