OTTOVILLE — Ottoville councilors decided to not go forward with a highly debated sidewalk construction proposal after several months of discussion and dividing some residents on either side of the issue.
After Mayor Ron Miller opened the floor to comments before the vote, several residents stood and made the points that have been made since the debate began in the fall when councilors first announced the plan to build sidewalks from Sunset Drive south of town to Monterey Street. Residents against the construction had argued need, cost, and a lack of professional studies completed to determine if a sidewalk was feasible. Proponents of the construction primarily addressed safety issues. Several people continued to make the same points Wednesday until resident Hubie Byrne stood up.
“We need to stop the bleeding,” Byrne said. “We need this to stop and you guys need to make a decision.”
Councilors voted 4-1 to let the issue die, for now.
Council President Randy Altenburger said that while the council has decided not to go forward for now, that it doesn’t necessarily mean it is a dead issue.
“We are going to investigate this issue further and see what our options are,” Altenburger said. “It doesn’t mean we are killing the idea.”
The project was just the first of the council’s long-range plan to construct sidewalks throughout the entire community, but they plan to look at the issue more keenly after the the heated battle, which often attracted nearly 100 residents to regular meetings. When asked if she thought it was an issue simply of money, Councilwoman Karen Hoersten said she didn’t think so.
“I think it was just a matter of how we came across,” Hoersten said. “I think people thought we were telling them they were going to put in a sidewalk.”
Hoersten was the lone councilor to vote “yes” on the ordinance, citing safety issues.
Altenburger said that many people throughout the whole process said they were in favor of the sidewalks, even if they had spoken out against this plan.
“I think most just objected to how it was being done,” Altenburger said.
The council had accepted a bid from J & M Excavating for $24,368 to do the project. The failed ordinance stated that the property owners would be accessed 70 percent of the costs, with the village absorbing the other 30 percent.
Altenburger said the issue was simply taking up too much of the council’s time and they had agreed it was time to vote. He said the council still plans to go forward with its intent to pave sidewalks but will look for a different approach.
“At this point we don’t know how that will be,” Altenburger said.