Editorial: Who pays for the sidewalk bill?

Published 8:30 am Wednesday, July 29, 2009

This week at the meeting of the Albert Lea City Council, it was noted that we need to be looking forward in our comprehensive plan to include the AARP/Blue Zones Vitality Project recommendations on sidewalks. It was mentioned that the Planning Commission is trying to include it into any new business plans or housing developments that may take place.

Although we applaud such forward thinking, we need to use that same forward thinking when taking into consideration who is paying for these improvements.

It seems that there is a dilemma in town that people do not want to be seen as not backing Blue Zones initiatives, particularly if they question the need for so many new sidewalks.

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We think sidewalks are fine but question the cost of them in a time of financial belt tightening. We also question, as many others do, the long-term cost of maintaining the new sidewalks. If the sidewalks are paid for through grants from Blue Zones or outside sources, fine, but what is the long-term costs to a city that needs infrastructure done in so many other areas?

We would hate to think that we are cutting police and fire personnel and sacrificing the safety of our citizens for sidewalks.

The AARP/Blue Zones Vitality Project is an amazing program, and please do not let this be a “for us” or “against us” case as Albert Lea is most assuredly for AARP, Blue Zones and the Vitality Project. Just consider the masses that showed up at the kickoff last May.

But it is the responsibility of city leaders to take the recommendations of the Vitality Project as what they are — recommendations — and weigh them versus the consequences of tight economic times.

Please continue to think long term as this city moves forward, both in spending as well as in the initiatives the city takes that will affect all taxpayers in 20 years.