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Our View: Council's decision was sound

The City Council on Monday made a difficult decision, unanimously approving a sidewalk plan that will add convenience and safety to the city's sidewalk system.

The City Council on Monday made a difficult decision, unanimously approving a sidewalk plan that will add convenience and safety to the city's sidewalk system.

The plan will require property owners along portions of West Norway Avenue and East Hanson Avenue to pay for the construction of sidewalks, which comes to approximately $2,000 for a typically sized piece of property. Property owners can either pay in full or can take five years to pay back the debt, without making a payment until 2011. We don't feel such a plan is constrictive.

The trouble is that many residents are, predictably, against the idea, since it will force them to either do the work themselves, pay a private firm directly, or pay the city for doing it. There were several objections at Monday's meeting, voiced by the affected property owners.

It's a bad time to be forcing anyone to pay that kind of money, several said, and such talk does tug at the heartstrings. But there are safety issues at stake here that are absolutely impossible to overlook.

Dozens of students walk to and from school on Norway each day during the school year. Where there are no sidewalks, they are forced to walk in the streets. Drivers in the early morning battle a low-hanging sun, and in wintry weather, snow builds up along the sides of the street. That means less area for both drivers and students.

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During the summer, Hanson Avenue is a key artery for children who walk to Hitchcock Park and the swimming pool. Although residents in that area petitioned the City Council years ago and at that time avoided being forced to build sidewalks, that petition had no legal binding. All it did was convince that council to delay the inevitable, and in the years since, the area east of Hitchcock Park has seen large housing developments constructed, adding to the neighborhood's population.

The current council, we are convinced, put much thought into this issue, relying heavily on the efforts of Terry Johnson, the city's engineering supervisor. Johnson, one property owner said Monday, was polite and responsive, and for that he should be commended.

The council, too, deserves credit for its tough stance in the face of controversy and pleas from the public.

As we have said before, a lack of sidewalks in some sections of the city has created a dangerous situation. If the city ignores it, then it will be the city who could face the consequences when, heaven forbid, a tragic accident occurs.

The council made the right choice, and we appreciate the council members for sticking to their guns in the face of controversy and protestation.

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