Sidewalk issue snags in Kaysville

Mar 31 2012 - 9:09pm

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(NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner) Children walk home from Snowhorse Elementary School in Kaysville.
(NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner) Children walk home from Snowhorse Elementary School in Kaysville.

KAYSVILLE -- A citizens group claims its effort to connect sidewalks from Kaysville homes to Snow Horse Elementary and Centennial Junior High is being slowed by the Davis School District.

The group says the district has been unwilling to allow it access to those most likely to contribute to the project.

But district officials point out the responsibility of installing a sidewalk at that location rests with the city, and the district's request for rent and insurance coverage from the citizens group in order to use one of the schools to host an informational meeting on the project is no different from how the district treats any other group that wants to use its buildings.

Sara Thatcher, a leader of the citizens group, said the sidewalk is needed so students don't have to walk in the street to and from school.

"It is very precarious," she said of the walking conditions.

"There is a mile and a half where there is sidewalk and then there is not," said Thatcher, the mother of six children who attend the two schools.

"(The school community) is the whole reason we are doing this," she said of her group, which has raised about $9,000 for the project.

Kaysville city and the group are working to raise $62,000 to install 2,300 linear feet of sidewalk on the west side of Angel Street from Ramola Street to the Angel Street Soccer Complex.

If the citizens group raises $31,000, the city will provide matching funds to complete the project, Mayor Steve Hiatt said.

But the mayor is concerned the district is making it difficult for the citizens group to harness its full resources by denying it access to those whom the project will benefit the most.

"They have just as much access to those people in the community as we would," Davis School District spokesman Chris Williams said of the mayor's charge.

Any group wanting to utilize a school district facility must provide its own insurance so as not to expose the district to any liability, Williams said.

"We don't have the means to cover everyone's trip and fall if that was to occur," he said.

There was also talk of having students from the schools deliver handbills door to door in area neighborhoods, Williams said. The district opposes that plan because it is unlawful and puts students at risk.

"We just can't allow our kids to do that," he said.

If students at the schools are to be called on to raise funds, Williams said, they are going to raise funds for needs within the schools.

"Kids won't be the only ones using the sidewalks," he said.

Williams said it is the mission of the district to educate children, not build curbs, gutters and sidewalks.

"The city, by law, has the power to construct sidewalks in their city. We don't have that power," he said.

But Hiatt questions the district's rationale, stating the responsibility of installing the sidewalks is with the landowner. The city is merely trying to bring all the parties together to expedite the process, he said.

"When extreme risk management supersedes common-sense statesmanship, we have a problem," Hiatt said. "Safety should be top priority for all parties involved."

City officials and residents have worked tirelessly to come up with an innovative plan to raise money for the sidewalks, Hiatt said.

"I am disappointed with the school district's position. We are not asking the school district for money," Hiatt said. "We are simply asking them to support a reasonable cause that enhances the safety of our children."

Williams said the district recognizes the area surrounding the schools is without full connecting sidewalks. To make students safe, the district pays $134,000 a year to provide bus routes to take students to and from the schools.

The district has worked with other cities on projects and has a great working relationship with them, Williams said.

"We have a track record of being a player in their efforts, to the degree that we can. We can't take on the city's responsibility. We just can't overstep our bounds," Williams said.

Thatcher said the citizens group's effort is only going to benefit the district.

"We didn't want money from the school district," she said. "It is mostly to connect the homes to the schools."

The city, in response to the citizens group, has reduced the speed limit in the area and striped the road, marking a wide shoulder to give students an area to walk.

Williams said district officials were working on having an informational meeting at one of the schools when Hiatt took the issue to the media.

Hiatt said he hopes the citizens group and the city will work out some sort of resolution with the district to get the project complete, recognizing the district is between a rock and a hard place when it comes to its policy.

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