When the Goshen City Council voted Tuesday night against funding the construction of more sidewalks in the city, we were disappointed. But we also understand the financial concerns that led to the vote.
The vote was taken after the Goshen school board proposed the council and board share the cost of a $125,000 sidewalk construction project. The school board is struggling to balance its transportation budget, which was reduced by $500,000 this year. Cuts in bus services were one way the school board attacked the problem, meaning more children will have to walk to school.
The school board’s idea to alleviate the safety concerns of parents was to have more sidewalks constructed near schools so children would not be forced to walk in the roadways during snowy weather. That seemed liked a practical and intelligent approach to the safety issue.
But four members of the Goshen City Council have decided against helping fund the project, saying the council can’t afford it. We think balanced budgets and conservative fiduciary practices by all levels of government are smart ways to govern. However, when we look at the problem of the lack of sidewalks in some areas of the city, we see the council as causing this problem.
This particular council is not so much to blame, but the past practice of other City Councils was to annex areas of the city that don’t have sidewalks, or allowing areas in the city to be developed without the construction of sidewalks. Now there are gaps in sidewalks around the city that need to be filled after development has occurred.
One positive program that this and past councils have supported is the sidewalk replacement/construction partnership with property owners. The council maintains a 50-50 cost sharing program whereby the city will pay for half the cost of a sidewalk. So, we wonder why those funds cannot be used for the proposed school board project? There may not be enough money to fund the whole proposal, but the council should do what it can to promote safety for our children.
When we look at this problem we see the need for an aggressive, continual sidewalk construction and replacement program. The council should continue to fund the 50-50 program, but should also take the initiative on this issue and begin funding the construction of sidewalks annually. If the program is continued for a decade or more, we think most areas of Goshen will become walkable, where neighbors can stroll together and be tied into the rest of the community that enjoys the safety of walking on a pathway safe from automobile traffic.