Council mulls pay cut to pay for sidewalks
May 15. 2013 1:21PM
The City of Dell Rapids is seeking a grant to build new sidewalks near two schools, but some city council members think their own wages should be used to fund the project instead.
Known as the Safe Routes to School project, city officials are working with the Dell Rapids School District to pursue an $215,00 grant from the state transportation department to install sidewalks near the public elementary and middle school.
One of the walks would start east of the elementary school and continue that direction near Ripple Creek Road and 12th Street and then south from Clark Avenue to 10th Street.
Another would run directly south from the school along the Rebekah Avenue right of way. That walk would stop at 10th Street.
The middle school sidewalk plans include walks along the west and north sides of Brown Park and north along Garfield Avenue to the school.
Councilor Mark Crisp lives on 12th Street near the school and said he’s glad the city has plans for sidewalks in the area.
“What I have an issue with is that its approximately 800 feet of sidewalk you’d be pouring on my property, and that will not happen,” he said. “We will not use taxpayer dollars or grant money for sidewalks on my property.”
Typically, residents are required to foot the bill for new sidewalks on their property, and the Safe Routes to School project could set an unwanted precedent, he said.
Crisp said in 2011, before being seated to the council, he offered to pour sidewalks on his own dime, but the city didn’t take him up on his offer.
If the grant is awarded, the sidewalks would be installed in 2014.
“I wanted to start this two years ago. For two years I’ve watched the kids coming down across the field. They walk … past my house and right into the street because the city has no sidewalks,” he said. “I don’t want to wait another year watching someone else’s kids walk down icy streets.”
Crisp suggested diverting the council’s pay - $2,400 this year – to a sidewalk fund that would allow the city to bypass the grant process and begin project construction this summer.
“Before I take one paycheck from this council I want to see sidewalks put in,” he said, adding that without grant strings attached and state government to work through, the construction of the phase one sidewalks, with some minor route changes, could be done for less than $30,000.
Crisp made a motion to reduce councilor pay to $0 per year.
“I want to see that pay go toward these sidewalks this year, and if (the city) lands the grant, then we’ll find other places to put those sidewalks because there are a lot of places that we need them.”
Councilor Chad Andrews opposed the pay cut and said if the council doesn’t get paid, other municipal office holders ought not get paid either.
“If we’re going to get rid of ours, we might as well get rid of everybody’s, planning and zoning commission included,” Andrews said.
Crisp said the money the council receives could go further if spent on city projects.
“I’ve never understood people that run for an office (say) I’m doing it because I want to give back. So you’re giving back but your getting a pay check?” he said.
Andrews said nobody serves on council because of the pay, but being compensated, if even a little, makes the job more tolerable.
“It is nice to get a little bit of pay for some of the crap we have to put up with,” he said. “Do I need 2,400 extra dollars per year? No. But I don’t feel like taking phone calls and getting yelled at all the time.”
Crisp’s motion to indefinitely eliminate pay for city councilors, seconded by Mike Geraets, garnered a rare 4-4 vote – Lee Burggraff and Paul Miles also supported the pay cut.
Mayor Scott Fiegen cast the deciding nay vote and the motion failed.
Council pay might not be safe, however. Crisp said last week that if the grant is not awarded for the Safe Routes to School project, the issue of council compensation could come up again.