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.