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Paynesville Press - April 16, 2003

Residents protest sidewalk extension along Lake Avenue

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

Several residents along Lake Avenue do not want the sidewalk to be extended, but despite their protests the city intends to do just that.

As part of the current Lake Avenue project, the city plans to extend the sidewalk on the west side of Lake Avenue to continue from Main Street to First Street, where previously no sidewalk existed.

A petition, signed by six residents of Lake Avenue and by Calvary Baptist Church, was brought to the city council last week. The petitioners argues that there is no value in having a sidewalk there, that it will create extra work for the residents, that they could be held liable for people falling on it, and that for safety a sidewalk should not be built next to a highway.

Bruce and Elaine Bork, who own a daycare on Lake Avenue, told the council last week that a sidewalk will attract children riding bikes or trikes who could be hit by cars backing out of their driveway, which happens frequently as parents drop off or pick up their children.

The city views safety differently, though. City officials believe sidewalks are safer than streets for walkers and bikers. (Biking is allowed on sidewalks in Paynesville except downtown.) The city has a policy of replacing or building new sidewalks any time they can in conjunction with a street project in an effort to provide a safe place for pedestrians in the most cost-effecient way.

Members of the council said they would like to see the sidewalk go all the way to Highway 55, but this proved difficult to build.

The city views the area east of Lake Avenue as possible residential development - as identified in the city's new comprehensive plan - and sidewalks will be important as those areas grow, said city administrator Steve Helget.

While the petitioners thought a sidewalk was an unnecessary cost, council members said they believe the cost will be justified by keeping pedestrians off the street. Council member Harlan Beek said the lack of a sidewalk may be the reason the Borks claim they rarely see pedestrians in the area now. Beek lives near St. Louis Catholic Church and sees many people walking to and from church services and said he found it hard to believe that Baptists wouldn't walk to church, too, if there was a sidewalk.

If the city doesn't build a sidewalk now, they may regret it when it's too late, Beek told the council.

Other council members agreed that the current sidewalk policy should be kept and that the sidewalk should be extended along Lake Avenue.

The Lake Avenue project is being paid for, in part, by the state before it turns the road back to the county. The sidewalk costs will be included in the state's share of the project.

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