The Norman Transcript

May 8, 2013

Dividing city funds pushes sidewalks aside

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Norman needs sidewalks for its children to walk to school, for persons with disabilities to have access around town and for connectivity to other trails throughout the city, but even with the city investing $220,000 for sidewalk programs in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget, an estimated $2.9 million in requested sidewalk projects remain unfunded, council members learned Tuesday night as budget talks continued.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation will fund sidewalk projects to the tune of an additional $400,000 in the coming year, but that number does not include the unfunded $2.9 million in unfunded projects.

The city does not seek out sidewalk projects Public Works Director Shawn O’Leary said. Rather, Norman residents report trouble spots and put in requests. Those requests are enough to keep city staff scrambling for solutions and funding.

The FY 2014 ODOT-funded sidewalk projects include Boyd Street from Classen Boulevard to Barkley Avenue and McGee Drive from Highway 9 to Cherry Stone Street.

City-funded sidewalk projects for FY 2014 include the sidewalk program for schools and arterials costing $70,000 to put sidewalks on Berry Road from Rebecca Lane to Vine Street to serve Monroe Elementary.

A sidewalk accessibility project will put sidewalks along Morren Drive, 24th Avenue Southwest, Brooks, Lindsey Street and Biloxi Drive for an investment of $35,00.

Norman property owners will participate in a 50/50 funding split with the city to replace sidewalks citywide. Norman’s investment will be $65,000 for its half of those projects.

Finally, the downtown sidewalk project will cost the city $50,000.

City staff have ranked sidewalk projects to create a prioritization schedule. The ranking takes into consideration factors including:

· Distance to destination

· Presence of multiple attracting destinations

· Condition of the site from new to hazardous

· Whether another ADA compliant route is available

· Type of road

· Type of street crossings

· If there is a CART bus stop on the route

· Would it connect to a possible development infill

· Is the route an ADA improvement request

· Has there been an accident at the location

· Input by Norman residents on the request

· Age of the request

The factors are weighted and compiled to create the prioritization ranking of the projects. City staff also will continue to look for state and federal grants, donations or other matching funds to pay for sidewalk projects.

The focus of Tuesday’s Norman City Council Conference meeting was to review the proposed Capital Improvement Projects Budget and specifically to look at the capital fund.

The funding stream for Norman’s capital fund was established by referendum in September 1976, with 70 percent of the Second Cent Sales Tax designated to the fund.

One-fourth, or 25 percent, of that sales tax is designated for street maintenance.

This year, the Norman City Council is budgeting $29.4 million in the capital fund, which includes finishing projects that are under way as well as starting new projects.

Capital Sales Tax accounts for 35.4 percent of the total FY 2014 revenue sources for all capital projects. Other funding sources include bonds, user fees, excise and room tax, public safety sales tax (completing Fire Station No. 9) and other fees.

Of total capital budget expenditures, 35.6 percent will go to transportation projects and 12.2 percent to street maintenance. Revenue sources for all capital projects total $43.5 million.

Joy Hampton