By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
GOSHEN — Goshen City Council members voted along party lines Tuesday to defeat a proposal by Goshen Community Schools for a 50-50 cost split between the city and the school corporation to pay for a $125,000 sidewalk expansion project.
The idea behind the proposal first arose after Goshen Community Schools officials learned they had lost $500,000 in revenue to their transportation fund this year due to the property tax caps, forcing the corporation to come up with some creative solutions to its transportation dilemma.
One such recommendation was to enforce the one-mile walk zones the school board had approved several years ago, which in some places would require the installation and repair of several sections of city sidewalks.
Along those lines, GCS Superintendent Diane Woodworth went before the council during its June 4 meeting to request that the council pay for half of a $125,000 sidewalk expansion project that would pay add about one mile of sidewalks. That one mile allotment would then be divided among several different smaller sidewalk projects in school zones around the city.
Areas that could have seen new sections of sidewalk had the program been approved included:
• Clinton Street from Redspire Drive to Greene Road;
• Berkey Avenue from Waneta Drive to Greene Road;
• North Main Street (Ind. 15) across the Salvation Army parcel;
• Adams Street from 12th Street to 15th Street;
• Dierdorff Road/CR 27 from Fairways Drive to Regent Street; and
• 13th Street from College Avenue to Jackson Street.
During the council’s previous meeting, Council President Jim McKee noted that while he is supportive of the need for new sidewalks, he did not feel that the council was secure enough financially to warrant spending $62,500 on a joint venture with the school corporation at this time. He repeated that viewpoint during Tuesday’s meeting.
“I think it is the school’s job to make sure the kids are safe, and they have an opportunity, and I think they have the funds available,” McKee said. “I think this time, because of the tax caps ourselves, I think they should pay for it this time and yet understand that they can come back another time down the road somewhere when the economy is good. I think it’s a good thing we can partner with them when we can. I just don’t see how we can now when we’re not able to give raises and we’re not able to do some of the projects that we want to.”
One of the key sticking points for McKee and several others on the council was the fact that in addition to the $62,500 the council would have to pay for the project, the city would also be responsible for the cost of all of the planning and engineering for the project — a fact they said would raise the city’s cost above the agreed upon 50-50 split.
Instead of paying the entire $62,500 requested, McKee indicated he would be fine with simply providing the assistance of the city engineers to oversee the project, while the school corporation would be responsible for paying the $125,000 in materials and construction costs.
Councilwoman Julia Gautsche responded by saying she did not feel such an arrangement would be fair, as both the city and the school corporation would benefit from the newly constructed sidewalks.
“I would support you Jim, if the city had no benefit,” Gautsche said. “If we were doing this solely for the benefit of the school, I would support that. But the city has some benefit. We provide sidewalks for our neighborhoods and community residents. We have benefit.”
In an attempt at a compromise, Gautsche entered a motion to amend the agreement to state that the city would offer $50,000 plus the use of the city engineering department to oversee the project — a cost approximately equal to the originally requested $62,500. That motion failed due to lack of support from the Republicans on the council.
A vote was then taken for the original request of a 50-50 split between the city and the corporation. That motion was also defeated in a four-to-three split along party lines, officially killing the request.
Voting against the proposal were Republicans Edward Ahlersmeyer, Jim McKee, Dixie Robinson and Brett Weddell.
Voting for the proposal were Democrats Julia Gautsche, Jeremy Stutsman and Everett Thomas.