On your side(walk)
We received a call last week from a grandmother who was worried about the safety of children walking to school.
Construction of a new fitness center at Main and Thorp Sts. was encroaching on a sidewalk used by children walking to Marion Elementary School, she said. The sidewalk on the west side of Thorp St. runs north from Main St. past the USD 408 administration building and through East Park.
It’s the only direct sidewalk route for walking schoolchildren who live east and south of Coble and Main Sts. Otherwise, they have to walk west to Freeborn St. for a sidewalk route that leads to the school.
A quick drive-by revealed why the grandmother was concerned. A pad constructed for the future building nearly butts up against the sidewalk, and gravel from the pad had spilled onto it.
The grandmother said she’d tried to contact the city, but hadn’t yet gotten a response. She asked us to check into it, so we did.
We called city administrator Roger Holter, who said he wasn’t aware of the situation, but would check into it. Less than 10 minutes later, he was back on the line with an answer.
The sidewalk isn’t on city right of way, Holter said. It was built by a former owner on private property, and he sent a map showing the sidewalk is well inside the property line.
He also talked with building inspector Marty Fredrickson, who confirmed that the owners, Burton and Amy Harshman, plan to keep the sidewalk. Fredrickson was going to talk with the contractor about sweeping the sidewalk to clear the gravel.
Holter also included Superintendent Aaron Homburg in his follow-up email so that the he was aware of the information and could work with the school to inform parents. They’ll try to keep in touch as construction proceeds about times when the sidewalk may temporarily be closed.
Kudos to the Harshmans for choosing to keep the sidewalk and designing their building plans to accommodate it. Kudos to Holter for modeling the prompt customer service he’s worked to instill in city operations.
And big kudos to that grandmother for caring enough about children’s safety to recognize a potential problem and take steps to seek a solution.
We’re pleased that there really isn’t a problem at all, save for some temporary short-term closures. We have far more blocks without sidewalks than we’d like, and we’re glad a good one will stay in place for children to safely engage in a healthy lifestyle choice.
— david colburn
Last modified Sept. 28, 2017