WILLCOX — During the Jan. 7 City Council meeting, council members and Mayor Mike Laws had a well thought-out conversation after city manager Caleb Blaschke presented the topic of what to do to fix the city’s aging sidewalks.
Blaschke began the conversation with a Powerpoint presentation that highlighted the issues and needs associated with fixing the sidewalks before opening the floor up to comments.
“A lack of sidewalks in communities," Blaschke said. "Where sidewalk does exist, no replacement standards. Where sidewalk is soon to exist, no replacement standards. Potential liability of sidewalk ownership.
“The city does not have the budget to fix and install sidewalks throughout Willcox. ADOT owns most of the sidewalks, but requires the city to take liability. Sidewalks equal quality of life, safety (children, individuals with disabilities), health and active communities, increases in property values, more vibrant neighborhoods."
"Economic development and growth makes Willcox more attractive, allows the city to compete with neighboring communities, attracts new demographics of residents.”
Blaschke was echoed by Vice Mayor Tim Bowlby, who said the problem was inherited from past city planners, but a solid plan is needed moving forward to solve the problem and not dwell on it.
“All of this is not our fault. How do we work together to figure this out?” Bowlby asked. “Didn’t we talk about those funds that would help the sidewalks in designated areas?”
“Low-income areas," Blaschke said. "What you guys are talking about is other plans that we had. What we have is reserve funds in our streets. That’s something we could very easily implement. A program to where we could give.
“That’s something we already do with our need fund.”
The city gives to people in need and then has them make payments back.
Blaschke next proposed that they implement a similar strategy regarding their sidewalks.
“We can do the same thing with sidewalks. Other thing that we talked about again was contributing funding every year to a sidewalk fund,where the residents say, 'OK we need help with this.' We could match up to 40 percent of that.”
After more back-and-forth discussion, Laws offered one thought on sidewalks.
“I’m frankly not really sure what the best solution is,” he said.
Laws was echoed by councilman Paul Sheats, who thanked Blaschke for his presentation.
“I’ll just say I want to appreciate Caleb’s experiences, in my opinion," Sheats said. "I think at the council meetings he puts a lot of confidence into what he says. As things come up, no matter the amount of differences, he says 'hey you’ve done wrong now let’s fix it.”
The conversation ended with a unanimous vote by city council to approve an ordinance— amending the city code by revising Title 12, streets and sidewalks.