By Lorilyn C. Lirio
Members of the Olympia community voiced their demand to include the sidewalk program in the capital plan, saying sidewalks are essential to neighborhoods for mobility, safety and fitness.
On Monday, September 19, Olympia’s planning commission opened the public hearing for the CFP’s preliminary financial plan for 2023-2028.
Six community members participated in the public hearings. They all came forward and asked the commissioners to include the sidewalk project in the PCP.
Jim Lazar was the first to give his opinion. He focused his comment on Fones Road, which was included in the CFP and would use $3 million of voted Utilities Tax (VUT), saying the city provided voters with identified sidewalk projects that VUT would fund and that Fones Road was specifically excluded. STV funding.
“Fones Road was to be funded through impact fees and grants. STV funding was for a specific priority list of sidewalk programs,” Lazar said as he urged commissioners to remove Fones Road from the CFP for this year until until they ‘address funding’. the issues surrounding it. »
He also asked the city council to convene a task force of people involved in sidewalk funding since the STV vote to determine how this project should be funded.
Karen Messmer, who served on the Planning Commission for 11 years and on city council for four years, said the commission should refocus the CFP’s budget on sidewalks “to achieve the community’s vision”.
She reminded Commissioners of the vision statements of the overall plan. “In land use planning and urban design, the goal is to have a walkable, accessible and vibrant city. In transportation, the vision is complete streets that move people, not just cars .”
Messmer said the city is not focusing funding on sidewalks.
She encouraged them to “provide critical feedback to council and urge them to spend more of their discretionary funds to support our community.”
Larry Dzieza, president of the Olympia Council of Neighborhood Associations (CNA), said residents constantly voice their concerns on the sidewalks during their meetings.
Speaking on behalf of the ANC, Dzieza said they believe sidewalks should be given the same priority as roads and have funding for maintenance, which is currently allocated at $11,000.
“Sidewalks are important to neighborhoods for safety, fitness and mobility. They serve as an important connecting thread and build community. They also have a particular intergenerational role for people who are too young or old and unable to drive. They have an equity aspect for those who cannot afford to drive,” Dzieza said.
Dzieza criticized the city government for not listening to the voice of the community.
In 2019, Dzieza said Olympia conducted a survey on the transportation master plan, asking what they should spend if the city finds new funding. “The highest public response was the sidewalks.”
In May of this year, City Manager Jay Burney announced $10.2 million in available funding due to higher revenue and salary savings from vacancies.
“Did [the city] spend it on the sidewalks? No,” Dzieza said during the public hearing.
Dzieza claimed the city spent the money on firefighter leadership training; $3 million for financial software; records management software; special election for cultural access fee – $180,000; staff support to the climate program manager; Workers Compensation Fund for $1 million and set aside $3 million for an increased fund balance.
“All of those things are definitely good things to spend money on. But maybe it’s time to listen to what the public is saying when you’re doing the survey,” Dzieza commented.
He demanded to know where STV money for sidewalks was spent and recommended that the commission request an accounting of where and how the money was used.
Lisa Rimmer, who has lived in Olympia for 40 years, sees the lack of sidewalks as a public safety issue. “A lot of people think our lives are in danger when they walk and try to exercise in Olympia.”
Rimmer claimed the city government had failed in its duty to protect students, especially those going to GRuB (Garden-Raised Bounty) for training, for failing to provide sidewalks on Division Streets and Elliot.
“The neighborhood association has been going to city council for over a decade asking for sidewalks because we’re worried about someone getting run over,” Rimmer said.
The commission closed the CFP public hearing after 20 minutes of welcoming community members to express their views.