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Laundry list of concerns collected by mayor

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

By the time the city's initial ward meeting had wrapped up, Mayor Sue Murray had a legal pad full of notes to ponder and a list of issues to follow up on.

Sidewalks, neighborhood concerns, abandoned vehicles, animal control and even golf carts were among the items brought to the attention of city officials by Third Ward residents at a recent public meeting at Greencastle Middle School.

Mayor Murray and City Police Chief Tom Sutherlin listened intently to residents' concerns, whether they were as universal as sidewalk questions or as off-the-wall as "Do you handle skunk calls?"

Ron Clearwaters, 700 E. Washington St., opened the sidewalk discussion, questioning why there is no sidewalk along Arlington Street, south of Washington Street, down to Robe-Ann Park.

"I saw a little boy about get run over there," he said, "because he had to walk in the road."

He also wondered, "why some sidewalks don't get fixed."

"I know some aren't fit to walk on," the Third Ward resident added.

Clearwaters also asked who prioritizes for the city what sidewalks are repaired, replaced or installed.

That would be City Public Works Director Brad Phillips, the mayor said, noting that a list for 2012 has probably already been created.

Getting on the list is not easy, the mayor said, noting that compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires cities like Greencastle to first repair existing sidewalks and put ADA-compliant ramps in place before any new sidewalk projects can be initiated.

"There are some streets that won't have sidewalks until we've got all of them repaired, that's probably true," Mayor Murray said.

To emphasize how strict ADA compliance can be, she pointed to LaPorte and Brazil as a cautionary tale of two cities.

For not having ADA-compliant ramps in place, LaPorte was fined more than $4 million. Brazil's fine was reportedly closer to $2 million but the Clay County seat had to spend another $1 million to correct the sidewalks that were initially installed in order to be ADA compliant.

Furthering the sidewalk discussion, the mayor noted a program in which the city partners with homeowners to go 50-50 on funding replacement or installation of a sidewalk in front of their residence.

Besides sidewalks, Third Ward residents had other concrete issues on their mind.

One resident suggested that the cement pad remnants of the old city standpipe on the lot at Arlington and East Walnut Street had become an eyesore and urged the city to turn the site into a playground or something productive.

Mayor Murray indicated that someone actually had looked into buying the property and putting on house on it. Nothing, however, has ever become of that proposition.

Another resident questioned if golf carts can be driven on city streets the way they are being used in some areas like Van Bibber Lake or the Edgelea Subdivision.

Chief Sutherlin tackled that issue. Golf carts, he said, are not legal on city streets because you can't license or insure them as a vehicle.

Abandoned vehicles, meanwhile, were also addressed.

According to state law, a vehicle must be licensed and insured to be legally parked on a city street, Sutherlin said.

He also noted a vehicle cannot be parked on a city street for more than 72 hours without being moved.

In a final concern, Chief Sutherlin reminded residents that stray cats and dogs are indeed an issue locally, particularly now that the Humane Society shelter is closed.

City officers, he said, "don't get involved in wild animals," but should a vicious dog pose a danger to residents, the department has a noose that can be used to catch and keep the dog at bay.

"I'd rather be standing there with a dog on a noose or in a cage," he said, "than having somebody getting bit."

"Do you handle skunk calls?" inquired another Third Ward resident.

The answer was a quick no, although city officials did acknowledge that skunks and deer have become increasing nuisances inside city limits.

"Especially around Wood Street and Gardenside (Drive)," someone else noted as the session ended.

Raising her legal pad to illustrate how she'd written down their concerns, the mayor told the crowd of fewer than two dozen residents, "Obviously, you're welcome to call any time. You don't have to wait for once a year."

No dates have been set for annual ward meetings in other areas of the city.

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The other wards not Scheduled? Could that be a political move, No votes are going on in the other wards? The people in third ward is smarter than that.

-- Posted by macvrod on Wed, Oct 12, 2011, at 7:26 AM

The addition around Deer Meadows had a zoning change to R-2 with part of the variance was that each lot, when built upon, install sidewalks on all lot sides that abut a street. Why doesn't the city enforce the variance and get walks in an area with a school?

-- Posted by NeverChanges on Wed, Oct 12, 2011, at 7:30 AM

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