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Group meets on sidewalk problem in Coulee Dam


A group of some 22 Coulee Dam citizens met in Electric City Monday night, intent on allying in an effort to impress their town council to fix the sidewalks.

The issue of fixing sidewalks has been gaining attention since Fred Netzel, who called the meeting, decided to walk the town and gather signatures on a letter about them.

It’s an issue Mayor Greg Wilder readily acknowledges is serious. But the group meeting at the Vets Hall Monday doubts that Wilder’s approach to tackle it is the best one. They want a quicker fix for the worst problems, not necessarily a perfect one.

Former town council member Bob Poch recalled that in the past the town’s crew has fixed tree-root-caused upheavals by simply lifting the broken slab, cutting the roots and replacing them. He said in the 1960s and ’70s, the town would hire a couple of high school kids to help with such extra tasks.

“Not quite to the exacting specs that we’ve seen in the last contracts,” Poch said, “but the job lasted for 15 to 20 years. … It could be done for a heck of a lot less than 500 grand.”

That’s the upper limit of Wilder’s broad estimate of the money needed to fix all the sidewalks in town, which he thinks should be done before turning responsibility for their maintenance over to adjacent property owners, as state law specifies.

“That’s going to be the argument,” noted Netzel, “that we should spend $500,000 right now to make all of these problems go away … as opposed to … tackle the worst of them.”

Some speakers were wary of the possibility of passing a fee or tax to address the problem, saying that could be a hardship on people with low, fixed incomes. And Netzel was leary of seeking a levy vote that might not pass.

Those are the kinds of policy decisions the town council will have to make, which the group left intent on influencing. They plan on making sure several of them show up at each town council meeting to press the point that cracks with slabs jutting several inches up are “a lawsuit waiting to happen” and that they would rather fix the worst problems now and tackle the rest a little at a time with the town’s own labor, not hire a contractor and engineer.

Wilder says the town crew can start fixing some problems now, but that they could all be fixed as early as next summer, if the people want to approve one of several funding possibilities.

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