Mayor John Engen Cancels Slant Street Sidewalk Project
On Friday, Missoula mayor John Engen canceled the proposed sidewalk project for the Slant Street neighborhood due to its high cost and the financial burden it would cause for property owners.
"Really, it's a function of the price of the project and the burden we're putting on adjacent property owners ," said Mayor Engen. "The numbers suggested to me that this was a lot to ask of citizens. We've been struggling with this for awhile but the numbers have gotten so big that we've decided to take a step back and look at this another way, resent priorities and try to look at this another way."
Engen emphasized the important of proper sidewalks, but decried the excessive cost to property owners, some in excess of $40,000.
The cost of infrastructure projects has increased dramatically due to much higher costs of materials, a tight city budget and what he termed a challenging bid environment.
"There's a combination of factors," he said. "First there's materials that go up every year. We're fortunate in Missoula that there's so much building going on, and because of that the bidding environment has made it a sellers rather that a buyers market, and we're the buyers."
Engen said he has heard from numerous residents in the area that were not shy of expressing their displeasure over receiving those proposed bills for new sidewalks.
"It's more than just disconcerting," he said. "I've had a number of conversations with folks who are on the receiving end of that bill and it's super stressful and really hard to understand why a sidewalk project should cost so much, and to a certain extent it's hard for us to understand, as well."
Engen said he will be working on a revised sidewalk plan over the holidays that would be less expensive to property owners, and will submit that plan to the City Council for the upcoming 2020 budget discussion.
Engen said the Public Works Committee will have their regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, December 12 and he hopes to hear input from staff and the public.