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Sidewalk fix in town budget talks

 


Coulee Dam’s sidewalks are in need of repair and the town will have to decide how to fund a longterm solution or to make smaller repairs a few at at a time.

Solutions discussed at the town council’s preliminary budget hearing last week ranged from putting off buying a new snow plow in favor of repairing heaving walkways to adding a sidewalk fee to the monthly utility bill.

“The town is basically running out of money to fix the sidewalks, prune the trees and do everything else,” including keep staffed-up police and fire departments with the required equipment, said Councilmember Ben Alling, “and the town just cannot afford it.”

A preliminary 2017 town budget last month highlighted a $200,000 shortfall. The version presented Wednesday balanced at $11,132,333, with $729,516 being drawn from reserve funds.

“Now it’s the (council’s) turn for you folks to decide whether you want to shift things around,” Mayor Greg Wilder told the council.

Unlike almost all other towns in the state, Coulee Dam’s code designates upkeep of sidewalks to the town. State law otherwise would delegate those costs to the adjacent property owner.

Wilder said that in 1991, then-mayor Rod Hartman’s administration assumed the upkeep duty, but no revenues were defined to pay for it.

Fred Netzel, who grew up at the north end of Columbia Avenue, last month gathered signatures on a letter requesting the town find a solution.

Wednesday night he suggested not buying a $75,000 snowplow but use the money to fix the worst of the sidewalks.

But Wilder would like a longterm solution to the problem, such as changing the town code to be consistent with the rest of the state. Wilder noted many failing walkways could be the fault of the town, which would have to fix them all first, which could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Wilder presented options, the fairest of which might be passing a town-wide “Local Improvement District” in Swagerty’s opinion.

In the meantime, Public Works Superintendent Mike Stephens has approached a firm working on the sidewalks near the Church of the Latter-day Saints at the church’s expense. The company will produce a detailed bid for grinding down the less serious heaves all over town.

Netzel is planning a town meeting to discuss the issue at the Vets Center in Electric City, Nov. 21 at 6 p.m.

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