Charlotte City Council finds money for four sidewalk projects

Charlotte City Council finds money for four sidewalk projects


by STEVE HARRISON / Charlotte Observer and NewsChannel 36 Staff

Posted on March 26, 2012 at 11:09 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 27 at 6:01 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The city of Charlotte is jump-starting four sidewalk projects that it previously didn’t have money to cover, including a new sidewalk on West Tyvola Road where two young boys were struck and killed by a delivery truck in February.

City Council voted unanimously Monday night to shift $2.1 million to build sidewalks on East Sugar Creek Road near Garinger High School; West Tyvola Road between West Boulevard and Old Steele Creek Road; Carmel Road between Colony and Sharon View roads; and Nevin Road near Nevin Regional Park.

The city had considered those four as the most-needed sidewalks on a list of 202 unfunded projects.

Until the money was shifted Monday from a road project that came under budget, the city didn’t have a way to build them.

In late February, Kadrien Pendergrass, 5, and his brother, Jeremy Brewton, 1, were walking with their father along West Tyvola Road when the boys were struck and killed by a Sears delivery truck.

Family members and neighbors said the stretch of road desperately needs a sidewalk.

In late February, council members asked City Manager Curt Walton to review the city’s sidewalk program. Council members passed the shift without discussion.

Walton said Monday night the city will start work immediately on the new sidewalks, though the city must first design the project and acquire the land.

“I want people to know that it’s a process,” said council member LaWana Mayfield, who represents District 3, where the accident occurred. “We have to decide where the sidewalk will go – which side of the road. We have to see how big it will be.”

Plan would pay for more

The city builds most of its sidewalks with money from the sale of bonds. The city historically holds a bond referendum every two years to pay for sidewalks, roads, affordable housing and neighborhood improvements.

At the moment, the city doesn’t have a referendum scheduled for November.

Walton proposed last week a $926 million building plan over the next decade, which would allow the city to hold bond referendums in 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018.

A 9 percent property tax increase would cover the program.

Walton’s building plan would include $60 million for sidewalks and pedestrian safety projects.

Council members will debate the proposed tax increase and capital plan this spring, with a final vote in the budget in June.

Much of Charlotte was built before developers were required to build sidewalks. The city is trying to retrofit is older neighborhoods, but the process is slow – and expensive.

In the 1990s, Charlotte spent about $1 million a year retrofitting existing streets with sidewalks.

That’s now up to between $5 million and $7.5 million a year, with that money coming from previous bonds.

The city plans to build 375 miles of sidewalks by 2035. Charlotte usually builds about 12 miles of sidewalks a year.

Savings cover projects

The money for the four new sidewalks will come from a project coming in more than $5 million under budget.

The city is widening 2.2 miles of Statesville Road into a four-lane, median-divided road. Because of competitive bidding, the city said the winning project came in $5.7 million less than the budgeted amount of $25.82 million.

'I couldn't believe it'

"It takes a tragedy or something big to happen, before things are being done," said Katrina White, mother of Brittany Palmer, the Garinger High School student hit while crossing Eastway Drive earlier this month.

White says she expected the beauracratic process of installing a crosswalk to take much longer.

"I was like 'What?'  Wow!  It's like right at two weeks, I couldn't believe it," White exclaimed.

This past weekend, a few protesters rallied at the corner of Eastway and East Sugar Creek, demanding crosswalks get installed.  White says it was community involvement that helped spur the quick action.

"I was glad that everyone just got on board and rallied around it," she said.