Seven months after Denver votersto create a complete, crack-free network of sidewalks, officials from the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure have yet to begin implementation. They say they need $10 million for staff, planning, measurements, billing and other logistics to carry out the project that involves building, widening, or repairing 2,300 miles of sidewalk in the city.
"There's a lot upfront money that needs to be spent before a single penny goes into the first slab of concrete," said Councilman Kevin Flynn, who opposed the measure. He says the implementation wasn't well thought out.
Under the ballot initiative approved by voters in November, the city will assess property owners a fee of between $2 and $4 a linear foot of sidewalk adjacent to their property. But before they can bill anyone, transportation officials have to measure the sidewalk around every property.
"It's not rocket science," said Jill Locantore, a proponent of the ballot measure. "It just takes time and attention and, yes, the city does need to dedicate some resources in order to get the program up and running."
She says administrative costs were factored into the initiative, which allows the city to borrow money from the general fund and pay it back once fees - which are expected to generate $41 million a year - are assessed.
Some opponents are looking to repeal the measure, saying the fee isn't applied fairly.
"In this neighborhood, there are many people for whom that will be a big hardship," said Clare Harris.
She's on a fixed income and has 140 feet of sidewalk, meaning a fee of up to $560 a year.
The ballot measure includes a 20% discount for people in low-income areas and those on fixed incomes can defer payments until their homes are sold, but Harris says it's still not fair that she will pay hundreds of dollars more than someone who owns a million dollar townhome with only a few feet of sidewalk.
"Many of my friends were confused and just thought it was an idealistic great move," she said. "But the unfairness of how it's going to be priced for us - no income restrictions."
Flynn plans to push for a cap on the fees that will go up every five years and go on forever, "but the inequities that are built into the way it's written just simply need to be addressed."
The transportation department is creating a stakeholder group to take input on implementation.
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