City Council Approves Bids for Sidewalk, But Huntington Woods Won't Be Connected Yet

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At long last, it appears the residents of the Huntington Woods neighborhood will have a sidewalk that connects them to Saline.

Sort of.

At the June 7 meeting, after hearing from several residents of the southside neighborhood during public comment, Saline City Council voted 6-1 to approve construction and engineering bids for a sidewalk that starts along the Macon Road entrance to the subdivision and then crosses the bridge over the Saline River.  A $285,085 bid was awarded to Dunigan Brothers, Inc., for construction. $28,930 was awarded to Fleis and Vandenbrink for engineering services. 

Approval is contingent upon the contribution of $136,000 from David Shipman, the original developer of Huntington Woods, and review and city attorney and city manager approval of the Huntington Woods Homeowners' Association agreement to provide maintenance and liability for the walkway.

The Washtenaw County Road Commission must also approve the final plan for the sidewalk. Dunnigan Brothers Inc. expects to begin work as soon as the city initiates the contracts.

The residents of Huntington Woods phase one, have been asking for a connecting sidewalk for years. During public comment, they reiterated their calls.

Finding a solution to this issue has not been easy. 

A great deal of the sidewalk is located in Saline Township. It will be built on the property of someone who has vehemently opposed the sidewalk. In addition, it will be built on right of way controlled by the Washtenaw County Road Commission, further complicating the negotiations.

Lastly - and this is one hurdle the city could not clear - the proposed sidewalk was supposed to travail Monroe Street in front of the contaminated property owned by Adient. The sidewalk, as planned now, stops before it reaches Adient- meaning the connector sidewalk won't actually connect residents to the city core.

Still, residents are happy to see progress.

"I'm thrilled. It's long overdue," said Jeff Weiss, who led the charge for Huntington Wood residents. "Is it perfect? No! But we're far safer with the sidewalk as is than no sidewalk."

Jennifer Steben is one of the original homeowners in the subdivision.

"I’m thrilled to finally be connected to the city by foot and bike, like other city taxpayers. While I look forward to families frequenting downtown businesses, the real win is safety," Steben said. "The blind curve and increasing speed limit has been a real concern for years. I cannot wait for everyone to use the sidewalk, see friends safely, and continue to support local."

There was some debate at the council table during a 43-minute discussion.

Councillor Janet Dillon, the lone "no" vote on the sidewalk motion, listed several concerns. Dillon emphasized she was not opposed to the sidewalk. She said building a partial sidewalk could create a false sense of security.

"This is not a complete sidewalk. It does not cross the Adient property nor does it provide for a crosswalk," Dillon said. "I'd like to see a firm commitment as to what the safety plan is and how we're gonna make this a viable sidewalk."

Dillon questioned the maintenance agreement. To alleviate the concerns of the Saline Township property owner opposed to the project, the Huntington Woods HOA agreed to maintain the sidewalk along the township parcel. However, it won't be maintained in winter.

"That is a big sticking point for me. If it's going to be a sidewalk or connecting sidewalk, it should have full access, year-round. That is what (city) sidewalks are and that is something that I would like to see the city negotiate."

Councillor Dawn Krause said she understood Dillon's concerns but said some sidewalk was better than none.

"The bottom line for me is some kids in the area are going to try to walk and bike anyway. If we can at least have the sidewalk majority part of it then at least alleviates part of the risk," Krause said. "I do hope during my tenure we can complete the plan. So I will keep that on my radar."

Councillor Kevin Camero-Sulak agreed. 

"I have concerns. I know this is far from perfect, but I do feel it's imperative for the city to follow through. For the very patient residents of Huntington Woods, this will increase the safety of connecting to downtown Saline," Camero-Sulak said. "We talk about walkability and helping our downtown businesses. We owe it to make that investment - to our current citizens, future citizens and downtown businesses."

Camero-Sulak said he was confident city manager Colleen O'Toole, city attorneys and city council would find a way to get the resident of the sidewalk built.

Councillor Jack Ceo said the cross-jurisdictional issues that slowed the city's ability to progress on the sidewalk issue may pale in comparison to working with the state to construct a walk way on the contaminated Adient property.

Marl sided with the majority of council.

"It's not a complete sidewalk but it is an important first step in the process of improving the connectivity in our city's south-central corridor. The argument that if we can't do everything we shouldn't do anything is, in my judgment, folly," Marl said.

Answering a question about a crosswalk, engineer Fordice said the city has completed design work on a sidewalk on the east side of Monroe Street near Salt Springs Park entrance and wastewater treatment plant. That could allow for a crosswalk. However, others have talked about the speeding traffic on South Monroe Street, despite the 25 MPH limit.

Weiss said the HOA negotiated years ago with Shipman to build a sidewalk to the city. Shipman set aside $106,000 for the building of the sidewalk. The HOA is providing those funds to the city and Mayor Brian Marl negotiated with Shipman for an additional $30,000.

During public comment, Clerk Terri Royal read a message from youngster Teddy Brown, who said he and his brother tried to bike to town once but were scared off by a fast, big truck.

Teenager Jillian Hayes said she was speaking to council on behalf of more than 70 kids in the neighborhood.

"My parents always talk about riding around their hometowns when they were my age and how much they enjoyed it. I would love to be able to do that too," Hayes said. "I have many favorite places I would love to go to in Saline."

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