Citizens react to Council’s planned sidewalk project

GREENVILLE – Nearly two dozen residents – many of them clearly expressing frustration and anger – attended the Greenville City Council meeting July 1. They are residents of the Gardenwood-Rhoades Avenue area. They had attended the meeting due to Greenville’s Law Committee submitting (and Council accepting) a recommendation requiring a planned sidewalk construction project be partially funded by a grant and other revenues, but would also include an assessment on affected property owners. Estimated cost for the sidewalk would be $3,500 to $4,000 and the assessment would be over a five-year period.

Harold Stockslager presented a petition from homeowners with 44 signatures. Forty three opposed the action while only one affirmed it. He and others complained Council said it would hold a public hearing prior to moving ahead with the plan. He added they had received no notice of such a hearing being held.

Greenville Councilman Tracy Tryon told the audience the hearing hadn’t been held because they hadn’t seen the design yet. It isn’t completed. This probably won’t happen until fall with construction scheduled to begin in April 2015.

Greenville Mayor Mike Bowers said there had been one meeting held earlier but no one showed up. “We didn’t know,” came the quick response. “Then that’s on me,” Bowers said. Notice had been placed, but evidently in areas to which most residents had no access. “Decisions aren’t going to be made in a vacuum,” he added. “They will be made with community input.”

Some complained about already having sidewalks… “Why tear out good sidewalks just to replace them?” Others complained there already were sidewalks on one side of the street, “why do we have to have sidewalks on both sides?” Tom Wilson estimated “if I read right my property taxes would go up 40 to 75 percent.” Another asked why they were going to be assessed on their sidewalks when the residents on Russ Road weren’t on theirs.

Tryon and other council members expressed their appreciation for the input they were receiving from residents. In all, more than a dozen residents spoke during the public hearing portion of the meeting, some of them multiple times. Bowers and several council members said they were working to get uniform sidewalks in all areas, primarily for public safety reasons. Tryon added they were trying to get away from the “hit or miss” sidewalks like those found on North Broadway.

Jane Williamson said she understood the reasoning but “if you can’t afford it, you can’t put it on the residents.” Someone in the audience commented, “we can’t afford it either.” Stockslager said he wasn’t against sidewalks, but noted half of the affected residents were on fixed incomes.

Council President John Burkett thanked the residents for their input and noted the council has a “heckuva responsibility to the community.”

In other business nine ordinances and resolutions were presented to Council. However Council members Leon Rogers and Craig Schmidt were absent, leaving only five members. It takes six to suspend the rules and declare an emergency. Seven ordinances/resolutions were given a first reading; Law Director Eric Brand suggested two having to do with November renewal levies for current operating expenses be tabled until the July 15 meeting.

One ordinance allowed for $5,000 for Community Event fees to cover the cost of the city’s contribution to the 2014 fireworks display. Some council members expressed concern since the fireworks were scheduled for July 6; however Bowers said he “will handle it.”

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