Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

April 30, 2014

Council decreases sidewalk width

Steve Woodhouse

Knoxville — Work along the Second Street sidewalks near the Marion County Courthouse is expected to resume this week. For this to happen, the Knoxville City Council was asked to choose the width of the sidewalk. 

A special council meeting was called for Tuesday night to address concerns from Marion County about the original proposed width. Plans have called for the sidewalk to be a total of 18 feet wide. Original streetscape plans were intended to make downtown more "pedestrian friendly." 

Marion County Board of Supervisors Chairman Craig Agan had expressed concern about the amount of green space that would be lost if that were done. City Manager Harold Stewart sought input from the project's engineer, who informed him that six feet could be taken off of the width of the sidewalk. 

"From staff's perspective, I don't see a need to leave them at 18 feet," Stewart said. He recommended the council follow the engineer's recommendation of a six-foot reduction. The change will also reduce the cost of the project by over $3,000.

The council discussed the matter further with staff, as well as Agan and Marion County Facilities Director Cal Stephens, who were in attendance. In the end, council voted 4-0 to reduce the sidewalk by six feet. (Councilor Dawn Allspach-Kline was absent.)

Another streetscape-related discussion was held following this action. Weeks ago, a downtown business owner suggested mid-street parking on Third, while the work is still being done on Robinson. 

Staff investigated the suggestion further, and received input from the project engineer. While mid-street parking is possible, staff found some potential problems with it. They include additional costs to paint new stripes for parking stalls, potential pedestrian safety issues and struggles the City and County may have with large equipment that needs access to the area. 

"It seems like a waste of money," Councilor Carolyn Formanek said. "To stripe something for a month-and-a-half." 

"By the time we mess with it, it's going to be more unhandy," Councilor Dave Roozeboom said. 

"I grew up in Chariton and they have that," Councilor April Verwers said. She went on to say that the streets are wider there. "I think it would be hard for the courthouse to get all of the equipment in and out that they're going to need." 

No vote was taken, but the council agreed with staff that mid-street parking will not work. Assistant City Manager Dylan Feik said that he hopes that, even though this idea will not be implemented, the public will continue to offer ideas and suggestions to the City. 

"If people have ideas on streetscape, let us know," Feik said.