Seeking concrete plan: Sidewalk issue spreads to curbs, gutters

The sidewalk issue is baaaaack.
And this time it has company — curbs and gutters.
Wapakoneta City Council 1st Ward Councilor Jim Neumeier, who has voiced his opposition to the assessment process for curbs, gutters and sidewalks, objected to assessments being levied against property owners along the recently completed Hamilton Street project.
He also wanted an explanation regarding no assessments being levied on property owners along Mechanic Street from Park Street to South Blackhoof Street.
Councilors returned the issue of developing a policy regarding curbs, gutters and sidewalks Monday to the Streets, Alleys and Sidewalks Committee.
During Monday’s council meeting, Neumeier said residents and property owners often argue over the inconsistencies in the current policy.
He said he understands the city is an assessing community and property owners will be assessed for curbs, gutters and sidewalks, but the matter becomes confusing when state and federal grants prohibit residents from being assessed. He cited the Bellefontaine Street reconstruction project as an example for property owners not being assessed for curbs, gutters and sidewalks, and the East Benton Street project as an example of property owners being assessed for the same scope of work.
Neumeier said he does not accept the current argument for keeping the process as is.
“The argument that that is the way it was done before doesn’t hold much water with me because I didn’t think it was fair when it was done this way before,” Neumeier said.
Councilor-at-large Tom Finkelmeier Jr., who voiced his acceptance of Streets, Alleys and Sidewalks Committee members revisiting the issue, said he has no problem with a uniform, equitable policy for paying for curbs, gutters and sidewalks.
Finkelmeier and Neumeier are members of the Streets, Alleys and Sidewalks Committee, which is chaired by 4th Ward Councilor Dan Graf and is scheduled to meet at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Finkelmeier said he objects to people saying since they have already paid state, federal and other taxes, they should not be assessed for projects. Finkelmeier cited other instances where people are taxed multiple times, specifically their income, and people accept this.
Councilor-at-large Steve Walter informed councilors and administrators that he is working with city Engineering Department personnel on the historic costs for installing curbs, gutters and sidewalks and he plans to present costs of contracting for those items to be installed and the city installing them. He will reveal his findings at a future Streets, Alleys and Sidewalks Committee meeting and a future Finance Committee meeting.
Safety-Service Director Bill Rains explained property owners were not assessed for curbs and gutters along South Wentz Street because it was part of a sewer repair project. Money for curb and gutter repair came from an Enterprise Fund, not the General Fund.
After the ordinance was read for the first time to assess Hamilton Street property owners, Rains explained the Hamilton Street project was part of a larger street project with curbs, gutters and sidewalks being reconstructed, while the Mechanic Street project consisted of a grind and repave of the street with only sections of the curb to be replaced.
With only sections of the curbs being replaced, Rains noted he did not see a reason for the project to go through the assessment process. Since then the project has grown to include more curbing.
The city is paying for Mechanic Street to be repaved from the CSX railroad tracks to West Auglaize Street. With no state or federal grants, the city could only afford to do from the railroad tracks to South Blackhoof Street this fall. The rest is scheduled for 2012.
Talking with people involved in paving projects, Mayor Rodney Metz said he favored more curbs and gutters being replaced to help the asphalt overlay to last longer.
“Curbing came into play because I don’t like to put asphalt down for a street that doesn’t have curbs because it causes problems,” Metz said. “The experts in the asphalt industry say potholes and cracks develop in the middle of the street because you don’t have curbing to adequately get rid of the water.”
One councilor said he believed the issue should go back to committee for further review so they can eliminate discussions each time an assessment is brought before council for consideration.
“I would like to see Streets, Alleys and Sidewalks Committee members get together and say what is best for the city of Wapakoneta,” 2nd Ward Councilor Dan Lee said. “Saying this is the way it was does not mean that is the way it has to be for the future.
“If Streets, Alleys and Sidewalks Committee members can develop a proposed plan then I would like to see something done that way,” he said. “To fight this every time an assessment comes up is frankly a waste of our time. I would like to have something that we can say is for now and the future.”