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The Sanpete Messenger

Not enough support for Spring City sidewalk safety project

This section of freshly-poured concrete sidewalk is the beginning of Spring City's Safe Routes to School project, which is meant to add sidewalks for two blocks on every side of the elementary school. Due to a lack of response to the city's call for volunteers, the project may get scrapped or only partially completed. - Robert Stevens / Messenger photo
This section of freshly-poured concrete sidewalk is the beginning of Spring City’s Safe Routes to School project, which is meant to add sidewalks for two blocks on every side of the elementary school. Due to a lack of response to the city’s call for volunteers, the project may get scrapped or only partially completed. – Robert Stevens / Messenger photo
Not enough support for Spring City sidewalk safety project

 

Robert Stevens

Managing editor

11-10-2016

 

SPRING CITY—At their recent meeting, Spring City’s leadership considered scrapping the Safe Routes to School sidewalk project since the community volunteer effort they need to accomplish in full it had yet to materialize.

At meeting on Thursday, Nov. 3, Spring City Mayor Jack Monnett and the council discussed the lack of volunteer response from the community at length. In the end, they decided they would reach out one more time asking for volunteers, and if the volunteers didn’t come, the project would get dropped. Later, after further efforts to recruit volunteers, the city got a small turnout, but not enough to complete the project in full.

“In terms of parental support, there has been zero response,” Councilwoman Kimberly Stewart said at the council. “My takeaway from that is that it must not be that important to them.”

The plan was originally proposed last year to install three sets of sidewalk, two blocks long, going out from Spring City Elementary so kids had a safer walk to and from school.

The city was approved for a grant from the state-funded Safe Routes to School Project that would only require them to pay six percent of the total cost. When the city received the bids, the overall cost came to about $266,000 due to costs associated with state-level funding requirements to hire an engineering firm, do surveys and hold competitive bids.

If the city took the grant, it would have been on the hook for about $15,000.

Councilman Cody Harmer said, “I am a contractor, and I crunched the numbers, and we just thought it was a ridiculous price tag overall. I just couldn’t have a clear conscience squandering all that taxpayer money.”

Ultimately the council decided against the grant, feeling the total cost to the taxpayers who would foot the majority of the bill, was too steep.

The council still decided to put in the sidewalk, but instead of using the grant funding, they would do it themselves. The city estimated that, with contracted work from locals and the help of volunteers they hoped to gather from the parents of students who attend the school, they could do it for a similar cost to the city, but without wasting all that taxpayer funding.

The project got underway, but the city never got the volunteers it needed from parents of Spring City Elementary students.

Stewart said she had reached out to the school and also had flyers sent home with every student saying they need volunteers and to call before Oct. 28, or the sidewalks will not get in this year.

She also said they did have a few volunteers who had helped them finish pouring one section of the sidewalk, but none of those volunteers had kids in school. Not one single parent of Spring City Elementary’s 138 students had volunteered their time for the project that was intended to increase the safety of their own children.

“My gut reaction is that we got the one section in, let’s just scrap the rest,” Stewart said. “Not one single parent has called and said ‘hey, I can at least handle a shovel.'”

Councilman Keith Coltharp said he thought they might not have received any response because this was the first time the city had called upon the community for labor volunteers with a project like this.

“A lot of people have commitments,” Coltharp said. “They might also not think they are qualified to help. I can think of various reasons why people might not participate.”

“I think your response to this is appropriate,” Monnett told Stewart. “We are doing it for them, but they were supposed to do it with us. If they’re not willing to help, maybe we should back off a little bit.”

Harmer told Monnett and his fellow council members that he thought the city should reach out to volunteers one last time before giving up.

“I think we should make it clear that you don’t have to be a cement finisher,” Harmer said. “We can use any help at all. If you can hand someone tools or hold a string line, that is just fine. We just want people to be involved and kind of take ownership of it. We have people with experience, like myself and a few others, who will handle any of the technical elements.  If you are experienced that is fantastic, but even moral support is something. ”

A resident who attended the meeting suggested that the city contact all the churches in the area to reach out for volunteers. She suggested that if you asked all of the religious groups (LDS Catholic, Baptist, etc.), you would avoid making it a conflict of interest between the city and any one religion.

Stewart agreed to give rounding up volunteers another try.

“Make it known that if you can handle a rake, that would be great,” Harmer said. “It would at least free me up to do something more important. We just need a few people. It’s fun. We have a good time out there doing it. We are working but we are laughing and joking, and it’s not backbreaking work.

Later on, Stewart told the Messenger in an email that more recent efforts to recruit volunteers for the work had started to gain some traction, but it was still not enough. As of the day the Messenger went to print, nine volunteers had signed up, but even with the moderate influx of volunteer involvement, it’s essentially a case of too little, too late.

“It appears we will not be able to get it all done, even with the volunteers we now have, but we plan on finishing as much as we can for the budgeted $15,960.00,” Stewart said.

Stewart said that, with volunteer participation getting off to such a slow start, their budget will now get them roughly 1,140 linear feet or 2.7 blocks of sidewalk.