GREENVILLE – Members of Greenville City Council heard concerns from residents regarding the sidewalk program at their special meeting last week, but during their regular council meeting on Tuesday council heard from several residents voicing their support for the proposed program.
One of those voicing support is Greenville City Council candidate Matthew Staugler. He proclaimed the benefit of having a city with “walkability” as well as the economic and health benefits. However, he also brought up an issue that could affect the city if no action is taken. He contacted an organization that deals with the rights of disabled persons and learned that not only is the homeowner liable, but the city could be liable through the American with Disabilities Act if an accident were to occur on a sidewalk that is in disrepair. Staugler pointed to several cities across the country that had judgments go against them in regards to poor sidewalks.
Staugler also pushed for the city to look for ways to help those who are below a certain poverty level. He suggested offering grants for a portion of the project.
John Liette said he lives inside phase one of the program and has an estimate of over $6,000, but he is in favor of the program. He said he sees people in power wheelchairs and walking in the middle of the street and dodging oncoming traffic and believes sidewalks in good repair would help eliminate some of that. Later in the meeting Councilman John Hensley said that people would still walk in the middle of the street even if there were good sidewalks because they do in his neighborhood.
Councilman Doug Wright volunteered to take on an individual committee assignment to determine if there are any grants available to help homeowners in this area. However, Councilman Jeff Whitaker asked Safety Service Director Curt Garrison if he thought there were grants available for sidewalks. Without hesitation Garrison said, “No.” Garrison explained if there were grants available the city would have already applied for them. He shared the sidewalk grants the city has received have been in conjunction with street projects. The city has applied for grants in the past and has been denied because sidewalk only projects do not score very high with the state agency grants. He explained every community in the state would be going for sidewalk grants if they scored high. Garrison did point out he didn’t know if there were foundational type grants available.
Mayor Steve Willman again expressed his support for the program and felt it was time to make this a priority. “A lot of things make up a good city and sidewalks are part of that,” he said.