Sidewalk widths debated during McPherson city commission study session

By Chris Swick
August 17, 2015

Confusion over the regulations on sidewalk width in the City of McPherson prompted a study session by the McPherson City Commission Monday morning.

The issue was brought forth by Jerry Potter first during public input of the regular meeting and then was discussed in depth after the session. Potter, who owns JP Construction but said he was there more as a taxpayer than a businessman, questioned why the city standards for sidewalks had suddenly changed from four-feet widths to five-feet.

Potter brought photos of a sidewalk that had been reconstructed under the city's sidewalk replacement program on East Euclid that showed a sidewalk going from a four-foot width to a five-foot, noting it was both aesthetically displeasing and a potential safety hazard.

“This doesn't look good,” Potter said. “I don't think it's going to be safe. I would say, without fail, every new neighborhood that's been put in within the last 20 years, came to a standard at the driveway that's four foot. We have driveways that slope down, level out and go back down at the approach. It's a transitional nightmare unless the streets are done, and then the sidewalks are done in conjunction with the streets.”

Finance Assistant Rich Miller said that the city's policy has been 5-feet widths on the sidewalks for a while, but the enforcement had been hit-or-miss up until this past year as directed by former McPherson Public Works Director Doug Whitacre.

“Once he left, I brought it up with [current Public Works Director] Jeff [Woodward] and [former] commissioner [Mike] Alkire so that we could get some clear direction on it,” Miller said. “They did want us to go to the five-foot width, so we started enforcing it. It took us a little bit of time to get that information down to the people doing the inspections.”

McPherson Mayor Tom Brown weighed in and said he didn't have a problem with the move to five-foot widths.

“Everything has moved, including the state, to five-foot sidewalks,” Brown said. “I just wonder, if we've got a fair stretch, if it's not feasible to do a whole block at a time if we have stuff that needs to be done, so that aesthetically and everything else, it's that way.”

No action was taken by the commission.