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Sunday, May 1, 2016

City tackles sidewalks, trail plans

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Making the city of Spencer more walkable, a city priority identified in past goal-setting sessions, was once again front and center during Monday evening's Public Works Committee and City Council meetings.

Plans to incentivize repair and replacement of old sidewalks, as well as the installation of new sidewalks, have been in the works, and boiled down to three points during the discussions.

First, the city plans to require the repair or replacement of sidewalks surrounding governmental buildings by June 30, 2013.

"If we're going to be pedestrian-friendly, we need to lead by example," City Manager Bob Fagen said during the committee meeting.

Six criteria -- including separations, cracks, surface failure and dips -- are used to assess sidewalks, regardless of where they are located.

Sidewalks in new subdivisions would be required under the second provision of the plan, which is expected to be approved by the full council at an upcoming meeting.

Stonybrook subdivision, for example, is already being developed and would not fall under the ordinance, Fagen clarified. City Engineer Jim Thiesse noted a new expansion planned near Deerfield, which is largely exempt from sidewalk requirements, would likely be the first subdivision handled with the new ordinance.

"You will probably get backlash because there is nothing to connect to," Thiesse said.

He also asked how homeowners would be punished for not following the proposed ordinance.

"By law, we can do it and assess them," Fagen answered.

"We had a sidewalk policy in place with Deerfield, but then relaxed it," councilman Ron Hanson added.

Thirdly, when streets are reconstructed, existing sidewalks in need of repair or replacement will be addressed and new sidewalks will be installed in areas where they do not currently exist.

City staff is recommending that homeowners be required to pick up just 50 percent of the tab, with the city paying the rest. Currently, $300,000 is available to pay that portion for individuals who can afford it. Those who cannot afford sidewalks will be able to apply for the $75,000 in Spencer Cares funds to cover the cost.

Fagen hopes that policy will be put in place before the completion of this summer's construction projects.

"With your leadership, we know where the money's coming from," Fagen said.

Some discussion arose in committee regarding whether or not the owners of rentals should qualify for the funds, but City Attorney Don Hemphill did not distinguish between home owners and rental owners in his draft of the ordinance.

Public Works Director Mark White also suggested that the city ordinance be changed to account for 5-foot wide sidewalks now required by the American with Disabilities Act.

When asked, Thiesse estimated sidewalks to cost $22.50 per linear foot, or about $1,500 for the average homeowner, excluding costs such as for grading and tree removal. While homes on corner lots have twice as much frontage, they would not be required to update it all at once.

As the policy moves toward implementation, Councilman George Kruger suggested a brochure to educate the public about the policy and available funding.

In regular session, the council awarded a $138,541 contract to Howrey Construction of Rockwell City for the Deerfield Park Enhancement Project, including a trail. Construction is expected to start in September and take 35 working days, though Howrey has been approved to start as soon as possible.

The estimate was $141,686 and the only other bid, from Godbersen-Smith Constrction of Ida Grove, came in at $152,013.

In other business, the council:

* Approved a $27,620 contract with Vaughn DeLoss Construction for a sewer extension to Jim Sikora's house near 18th Avenue West. Fagen said the extension was approved in hopes of addressing future expansion in the area.

* Approved the possibility of a detour of U.S. Highways 18 and 71 that would utilize West 18th Street in Spencer.

* Learned of a recent home burglary in which the doors were not locked. Spencer Police Chief Mark Lawson reminded the public to lock their doors.

* Were reminded of ordinances requiring bikers and dog walkers to yield to other walkers when on sidewalks and trails. Dogs are also to be on a 6-foot leash when approaching others, Lawson said. He also advised individuals in handicap scooters to add a flag or bright orange logo to their scooters to increase visibility.

* Heard from Lawson and Spencer Fire Chief regarding the state ban of fireworks.

* Learned of a free swim day until 5 p.m. on July 4th at Spencer Family Aquatic Center.

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Brilliant idea!!

Let's make people in the new Deerfield subdivision put in sidewalks that don't connect to anything!!

Great example of government deciding to spend the homeowners money for them on something useless.

-- Posted by financeman on Tue, Jul 3, 2012, at 8:50 AM

Yeah, let's make kids and old people walk in the street. The old system of sidewalks that stop and start makes no sense either, till all the lots are filled in and then the city has to go back and demand connections with those pre-existing parts. I don't understand why some houses were allowed to not have sidewalks while the rest could not get away without walks. That isn't fair either. As a kid I had to ride my bike in dangerous traffic to get around on streets with no sidewalk or a shouder. Somehow I did not get hit, but I had lots of close calls.

-- Posted by A. View Point on Tue, Jul 3, 2012, at 9:59 AM

It's too bad you have to pass a law to force people to do the right thing. If you have a home, it should have sidewalks. Spencer is way behind some other cities in this regard and it's good to see us catching up!

-- Posted by GrouchyGuy on Tue, Jul 3, 2012, at 11:43 AM

So now the city government is going to force homeowners to help pay for sidewalks so we can be "pedestrian friendly". If this passes, we should FORCE bikers/walkers to use them and ticket them if seen not using them. Only fair right?

I don't like to assume but I will here...I assume putting in a new sidewalk where one is needed or forced upon a homeowner will increase the value of that property, therefor the city can raise your property tax and once again find a clever way of getting more of your money. Don't get me wrong, some sidewalks need to be replaced or fixed but to require the homeowner to pay for half plus any grading and tree removal is obsurd. The city should pay for the gradding and removal since they will be getting some of it from you in property tax. Just my opinion.

-- Posted by iowafan11 on Tue, Jul 3, 2012, at 12:28 PM

I could be wrong too, it may not effect the value of property.

-- Posted by iowafan11 on Tue, Jul 3, 2012, at 3:17 PM

It doesn't effect the value of property. the city actually owns the sidewalk to curb and tell you what ever they want yoou to do. The absurd thing is that you have to maintane that sidewalk and the grass past it! Just like if your sewer main is in need of replacement, you have to replace it to the city line. Well I think if you only own up to sidewalk, they should have to pay the rest! They want those sidewalks after the fact, they should find a grant that pays for it, not expect the homeowner to pay! This town is out of control!

-- Posted by acerdj on Thu, Jul 5, 2012, at 5:21 AM

The city of Spencer is doing what any city usually does with sidewalks; we are not unique in that aspect. What acerdj has misinterpreted is that; you own all the way to the center of the street. The city reserves the right to control the curb to curb area with full responsibility for the maintance of a public street; you will get that space back in the event that the city should go away. From the curd to the center of the sidewalk is also the control space of the city to the effect that you maintain the space but the city can tell you what NOT to do there, it still is in your property boundaries but the city can put snow there and will cut and trim the tree there to some extent. They will also tell you not to plant any visual obstructions there and most likely forbid any tree planting in that space as of recent decisions. Therefore you will control the sidewalk on the property you own, I and the rest of the city inhabitants will help to pay for half of that sidewalk, and that lets us walk around without actually trespassing on your private property, just your public property.

This is standard and if people are not comfortable with these community standards, they need to locate in a smaller town, trailer park, or the country. (Where there are a whole set of other laws to obey)

-- Posted by A. View Point on Thu, Jul 5, 2012, at 9:00 AM

A. ty for clearing that up for me. I never understood that part at all. so ty again. the city really cuts trees to a point? what does that mean? they send out letters for the home owners to cut them. I do live in the country and I don't have nearly lol lol the problems that in town ppl have.

-- Posted by acerdj on Thu, Jul 5, 2012, at 4:08 PM

The tree cutting "to a point" means that if it is a cosmetic or miner trim, it's up to the home owner. If a tree has been in the city right-of-way before the new changes were placed on planting in the parking, they are probably responsible for the tree. However, getting the city to take down a tree that you feel is theirs can be hard to do. If the tree is a liability, about to crash into people and property, they might do the job at city expense.

-- Posted by A. View Point on Fri, Jul 6, 2012, at 9:24 AM

The city does not trim them to a point. They trim the trees on Grand Ave and on their property then send a letter forcing you to trim yours and if you don't, they will do it or have a company come do it and then send you the bill. No branch can be below 14ft in height. I had one that measured at 13ft 4 inches and received a letter telling me I had to trim it. Maybe they just wanted to help the postal service out. (joke)

-- Posted by iowafan11 on Fri, Jul 6, 2012, at 9:26 AM

I understand that tree's have to be trimmed to have proper sight lines while driving. I don't have a problem with making people trim their tree if it is well below the 14ft regulation. But to send a letter when it's close is knit picking. Obviously mine didn't take much time to fix but I found the letter more annoying than anything.

My main problem is with the new sidewalk rules regarding trees. If they have to be removed, it comes out of the homeowners pocket. The city should help pay for that as well, not just the sidewalk.

-- Posted by iowafan11 on Fri, Jul 6, 2012, at 9:33 AM

acerdj- I've never seen the city cut any trees that are in that area. We have a tree in that space and have been told we are responsible to make sure the branches are at least i think 10-14 ft above the street and sidewalk. We rent so it would actually be our landlords responsibility I guess but still.

-- Posted by AshlyMeyer on Fri, Jul 6, 2012, at 11:31 AM

acerdj - I'll take living in Spencer over rural any day...water, electric, cable TV, internet & phone are a bargain here compared with the cost of rural electric, propane, satellite TV, wireless internet, etc. One might save on rent living in the country or one of the small towns nearby, but there is the fuel & vehicle costs getting to work, the grocery store and other businesses...

Keeping my big maple tree trimmed away from the street is a small price to pay to live in this nice quiet neighborhood and if I have to form up and pour a 70' sidewalk in the next year or two, it's not a big deal.

And people here that gripe about property taxes here ought to move to Nebraska...high taxes, low wages and there's not much there.

-- Posted by Dennis the Menace on Fri, Jul 6, 2012, at 4:50 PM

lol lol lol k i have rentals and i know the rules on all this :) living in the country is a price to pay but i don't have to put up with the city tho lol and i like the trade off. use to live in a small town 15 mns. from spencer and i loved it, compared to spencer lol. i laugh, because i get why you guys are defending spencer, but i think they have some redicalous rules. getting the city to do anything that does not help them is a joke. tree trimming, i get why it has to be 14ft on the main roads. and they are way to nit picky on this stuff, but how many times have you gotten to a corner and there is this oriental grass growing and you cant' see the oncoming traffic*cough* grand avenue and trying to pull out from menards or the hotel road. how many houses do you see that are in shambles, but they go around telling us that we have to have our roofs and property looking good. i get this but i think they have gone to far on some of this.

now as far as the sidewalk thing, i just never understood what the actual rules were on this, but i think that if they are going to claim domain, they should help pay for it. if they didn't make these ppl put sidewalks in when building properties, than they should pay for it. or at least half the cost.

Dennis, :) I only live not even a minute out of town, but am tucked away from everyday madness :) that in it's self is life saving some days.

-- Posted by acerdj on Sat, Jul 7, 2012, at 11:00 AM

acerdj - The city gets its money from taxes paid by the residents of the city. Why should a tax paying resident that has paid for all of his own sidewalk have to pay for half of somebody else's sidewalk?

-- Posted by Henry Blake on Sat, Jul 7, 2012, at 4:08 PM

acerdj, I'm about 2 blocks from plowed ground myself. Madness...??? You mean like avoiding crowds and traffic? I was in San Jose CA last year...now that's madness. LOL! I was so glad to get home.

Those ornamental grasses, plants, flowers and trees cost the taxpayers $94K a few years ago...then the following year, the city let weeds take over the median and about 35 of the trees died. I filed a complaint about the waste of money and they sent a crew out to take care of the weeds and have since done a pretty good job of keeping things clean & watered but there are some bare spots and some button weeds have popped up. A year or so ago, they replaced the dead trees and they are taking good care of them too.

Houses in shambles...? Better give the nuisance cop a call...

-- Posted by Dennis the Menace on Sat, Jul 7, 2012, at 4:25 PM

Dennis the Menace; You are way out of being accurate, the cost that Spencer paid for planting along N. Grand looks more like *10,000, and a bargain at that compared to the total cost. Some trees will not make it and the cost to replace a percentage was included in the original estimates. The weeds were the result of too much rain to complete the laying of the irrigation pipe. This is real way off weather we deserve sidewalks in any city today. If you don't think that is a quality of life issue, then you may not like city living anyway.

Grand Avenue project's public, private estimated resources

Iowa DOT Tree and Shrub Grants $160,000

Iowa DOT funds for ADA Curb Ramp Program $46,343

Iowa Community Attraction and Tourism Grant $500,000

Iowa Great Places Grant $80,000

Clay County Supervisors $25,000

City of Spencer $200,000

Dvergsten Charitable Foundation $695,000

Spencer Rotary Club $30,000

*Spencer Parks Supporters/Grand Avenue Improvement Corporation $10,000

Trees Forever $10,000

-- Posted by A. View Point on Sun, Jul 8, 2012, at 1:58 PM

I thought ppl donatated to the city to help beautify the medians. Isn't that the reason why there are those signs in the middle on them or don't they have those any more? I think a city/town should waste some money on keeping the main streets looking nice, but we do have to remember how much the city likes on paying ppl to do this.

Dennis--traffic heck yeah lol. I lived in Denver, CO and I tell you, I hate going back there to visit. As for the shambles, like 322 W. 5th St, that isn't the *cough, cough* had to get the bad name out of my mouth, nuiasence guy, that is the city. They are the ones that passed the beautifing the property clause. I drive past this house and just wonder why the hell it is looking like that. It belongs to the Jacobsens and they have the money to fix it. I tho let one of mine look like that and the city is up my butt!

Heager---reread the article please and that will explain your own question to ya.

-- Posted by acerdj on Sun, Jul 8, 2012, at 7:40 PM

A. View Point: I was completely accurate about the dollar amount. We were discussing the area in front of Menards and Bomgaars. The trees on both sides of Hwy 71 near Menards and also the ones on N Hwy Blvd.

Not once did I say anything about not wanting to install a sidewalk...try reading what I (and others) write rather than every other word or between the lines.

The N Grand Ave project was $2.2M total, some grants and some tax money.

-- Posted by Dennis the Menace on Sun, Jul 8, 2012, at 8:10 PM

I meant Henry not heager

-- Posted by acerdj on Mon, Jul 9, 2012, at 6:46 AM

Dennis, calm down. You did not specify where you were referring to, in the city plantings, and I do not know that 94,000 is accurate. My numbers are correct, and came right from a previous story in this paper, please verify your source. As for donations to median work, that is only the tending not the original construction and tree planting. We are all grateful for those groups who deserve our thanks for the weeding and such.

-- Posted by A. View Point on Mon, Jul 9, 2012, at 10:06 AM

'Public Works Director Mark White also suggested that the city ordinance be changed to account for 5-foot wide sidewalks now required by the American with Disabilities Act.'

Does that mean all the sidewalks in town will need to be this width? If so, what about homeowners that just redid their sidewalks? Will what they did be a waste of money?

I do not have a sidewalk nor do I want one. So if I am forced to get one I would imagine that it would have to fit what is currently in place at my neighbors. Which doesn't fit in with the American with Disabilities Act.

Bicycles are not suppose to be using the sidewalk anyway and I see many people that run/jog not using them either. I don't mind people walking through my yard...just don't let your dog poop in it unless you plan on cleaning it up.

-- Posted by puppyluv on Tue, Jul 10, 2012, at 8:53 AM

Puppyluv I am with you on this. If you don't want one and there was never one there, then you shouldn't be made to. Yes bikes are to be on the road and many joggers,specially in quiet neighborhoods run on the street cuss they don't have to keep up and down, just a straight path. I also wondered if the preexisting ones were going to have to be replaced with the wider ones. Uncool. Grandfathered in!

View Point....ty for clearing that up on the medians :)

-- Posted by acerdj on Wed, Jul 11, 2012, at 5:35 AM

I'm sorry, puppyluv, you have to put a sidewalk as many have for years now, and you feel abused? WHAT?

Just because some have been allowed to slip past the city codes hardly can be used as an excuse to continue neglecting your responsibility to the rest of the city. Should you be denied the use of any and all side walks? You seem to think we can go without one in front of your house, and are depriving all others the same privileges. Really, this is like saying that because you haven't paid your taxes in the past, you shouldn't have to pay them ever.

-- Posted by A. View Point on Tue, Jul 31, 2012, at 9:07 AM

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