GREENVILLE – An effort to put the City of Greenville’s sidewalk ordinance on the ballot has failed. Richard Halley addressed Greenville City Council in early September stating he was beginning a petition for a referendum of the ordinance approved by council that set the wheels in motion to force repairs of sidewalks.
Late last week, Halley announced his group came up short in getting the required number of signatures. They needed approximately 420 signatures, but had less than 400 at the deadline.
Halley is encouraged by his group’s effort in bringing attention to the ordinance. “What we did was worth it,” he said. He was able to have a couple of conversations with Mayor Steve Willman where they were able to discuss the possibility of allowing the homeowners to decide what happens to the trees on their property. “I agree we must save any tree possible,” said Willman. “We will work with the property owners and hopefully come to an agreement with any option we may have. Some trees could be saved, but if the tree dies they still would have to cut it down and dispose of it. If the tree lives and damages the new concrete walk then they will have to replace the walkway in near future.” Halley added, “It is turning out, in my opinion, quite well.”
Also leading the charge in getting signatures on the petition was Greg Metzcar. He was disappointed they were unable to get enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot to let the residents decide. “Almost 100 percent of the people I talked to signed the petition,” he said. “People are pretty upset with this sidewalk ordeal.” He believes the city should be more compassionate in realizing there are some people that can’t afford to make the repairs. Metzcar believes it is the moral responsibility of the city. Although the referendum attempt was unable to get the required signatures, Metzcar believes it is not too late for the city to do the right thing and put the issue on the ballot and let residents decide.
Mayor Willman, however, believes there are enough people in the city that believe repairing sidewalks is just as important as paving streets. “It makes our city more inviting, for people to live here and for businesses to start up here. We have to start looking at what will keep people here, particularly the younger generations. This is also true for the elderly, which you know is a big part of our community, every chance they get to be mobile, to get out of their house is certainly a plus for their health and wellbeing.”
The administration will now seek a Resolution of Necessity at an upcoming council meeting. Once passed, registered letters would go out to residents in the first phase of the project with sidewalks in disrepair. The letter would give a timetable for repairs to be made.
Willman would like to adjust the timetable for the phases. “I don’t see where it would be necessary to only do one section a year; this is much too long of a process. I would like for our plan to be amended,” he said.
The mayor has researched the issue of grants, but he is not optimistic. “My conclusion is that grant money or help is not given in this area because it is a state ordinance that says the property owners are responsible for the upkeep of their sidewalks,” he said. He did note that many municipalities have taken it upon themselves to set up grant programs and or ways to forgive some portions of the costs to their property owners. “I certainly hope Greenville City Council would entertain this discussion to see what might be possible here with our program of sidewalk repair,” said Willman. “But I also believe this should only be done on the initial repair and they (property owners) should assume the responsibility in the future.”