GOSHEN — As a last second addition to the city council’s agenda Tuesday, June 4, representatives from Goshen Community Schools requested the city consider splitting the costs of new sidewalks.
Superintendent Diane Woodworth and Bob Evans, assistant superintendent of transportation and education services, said schools within the system would be increasing enforcement of a one-mile walk zones from each of the schools. In order to help students within a one-mile walk from their respective schools, about one mile total of new sidewalks would be required.
Woodworth explained that the heightened enforcement is related to the school’s $500,000 shortfall in the transportation fund.
Enforcing the walk zones was one of several recommendations the school board discussed and felt would help to alleviate some of the issues with transportation.
Evans explained that neighborhoods near Chamberlain Elementary, Model Elementary, Parkside Elementary, Prairie View Elementary and a short stretch south of Goshen Middle School would be the targets for new sidewalks.
Woodworth and Evans said that city engineer Mary Cripe estimated the cost of the new sidewalks would be around $125,000. Woodworth asked that the council consider covering approximately half of that cost.
During the council members’ opportunity to speak, several questions were asked and a few concerns were raised.
Julia Gautsche raised the question of very young children walking to school and the issue of lighting sidewalks.
Woodworth said the school would be holding meetings at each elementary school to encourage parents to walk with a group of children to help ensure safety.
Another issue that came up were snow-covered sidewalks that might not be shoveled.
“While I also support this, I would just note that it’s going to have some ramifications that are going to be problematic,” Everett Thomas said.
Woodworth noted that having children walk, especially young children, made her nervous but that the school system was not left with much choice. “It’s kind of what we have to do right now,” she said.
Councilman Brett Weddell asked if Woodworth or Evans had asked property owners if they would be OK with having sidewalks run through their yards. While Evans and Woodworth stated they had not yet contacted those who would potentially be affected in that way, Thomas added that residents have generally been very receptive to sidewalks.
Council President Jim McKee said that while he believed the additional sidewalks to be a worthy cause, he would have trouble agreeing to split the costs with the school. McKee cited the situation property tax caps has put the city in financially as part of the reason he would likely be opposed.
Woodworth responded to a question from Ed Ahlersmeyer by saying the sidewalks would benefit both the schools and the city, from a safety and cost-cutting standpoint for the schools and an opportunity to continue to improve the city’s walkability.
Thomas added that the new sidewalks would benefit the city in another way. “We have to show that we’re continuing to build and improve our sidewalks,” he explained.
The council did not take any action on the issue Tuesday, only hearing the request and holding discussion.