Olympia community members voice need for community sidewalks


Olympia community members went over their demand to include the sidewalks program in the Capital Facilities Plan, claiming that sidewalks are essential to neighborhoods for mobility, safety, and physical fitness.

On Monday, September 19, Olympia's Planning Commission opened the public hearing for the preliminary CFP financial plan for 2023-2028.

Six community members participated in the public hearings. They were all coming forward and asking the commissioners to include the sidewalks project in the CFP.

Jim Lazar was the first to air his opinion. He focused his comment on Fones Road, which was included in the CFP and would use $3 million from the voted utility tax (VUT), claiming that the city supplied voters with the identified sidewalk projects that VUT would fund and that Fones Road was specifically excluded from VUT funding.

"Fones Road was to be funded with impact fees and grants. The VUT funding was for a specific prioritized list of sidewalks program," Lazar said as he urged the commissioners to take Fones Road out of CFP for this year until "they addressed the funding issues surrounding it."

He also asked the city council to convene a workgroup of people involved in the sidewalk funding from the time the VUT was passed to determine how this project should be funded.

Karen Messmer, who served in the Planning Commission for 11 years and the city council for four years, said the commission should refocus the CFP budget on sidewalks "to achieve the community's vision."

She reminded the commissioners of the vision statements in the comprehensive plan. "In land use/urban design, the goal is to have a walkable, accessible, vibrant city. In transportation, the vision is complete streets that move people, not just cars."

Messmer said the city is not focusing the funding on sidewalks.

She encouraged them to "make critical comments to the council and urge them to spend more of their discretionary funds on support in our community." 

Larry Dzieza, president of Olympia Council of Neighborhood Associations (CNA), said residents consistently express their concerns on sidewalks at their meetings.

Speaking on behalf of the CNA, Dzieza said they believed sidewalks should have an equal priority with roads and have funding for maintenance, which is currently allocated for $11,000.

"Sidewalks are important to neighborhoods for safety, physical fitness, and mobility. They serve as an important connective thread and build a community. They also have a special intergenerational role for those too young or old and unable to drive. They have an equity aspect for those who can't afford to drive," Dzieza said.

Dzieza criticized the city government for not heeding the community's voice.

In 2019, Dzieza said Olympia did a Transportation Master Plan survey, asking what they should spend on if the city found new funding. "The highest response by the public was sidewalks."

In May this year, city manager Jay Burney reported $10.2 million in available funding due to higher revenues and salary savings from vacancies.

"Did [the city] spend it on sidewalks? No," Dzieza said at the public hearing.

Dzieza claimed the city spent the money on firefighter leadership training; $3 million for financial software; records management software; special election for cultural access costs - $180,000; staff support for the climate program manager; Workers Compensation fund for $1 million, and setting aside $3 million for an increased fund balance.

"All these are sure good things to be spending money on. But maybe it's time to listen to what the public says when you do the survey," Dzieza commented.

He demanded to know where the VUT money for sidewalks had been spent and recommended that the commission ask for an account of where and how the money had been used.

Lisa Rimmer, who has been living in Olympia for 40 years, sees the lack of sidewalks as a public safety issue. "Many people feel that our lives are in danger when walking and trying to get exercise in Olympia."

Rimmer claimed the city government was derelict in its duty to protect the students, most especially those who go to GRuB (Garden-Raised Bounty) for training, for not providing sidewalks on Division and Elliot Streets.

"The neighborhood association has been going to the city council for over a decade pleading for sidewalks because we are afraid somebody might get run over," Rimmer said.

The commission closed the public hearing for CFP after 20 minutes of accommodating community members to express their opinions.


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