Missoula mayor cancels controversial sidewalk project

Posted at 3:56 PM, Dec 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-10 19:07:41-05

MISSOULA – Buckling under pressure from the public, Missoula Mayor John Engen canceled a proposed sidewalk project that would significantly burden homeowners financially.

In a press release sent Friday afternoon, it says Engen canceled the proposed sidewalk project in Missoula’s Slant Street neighborhood based on high costs and the financial burden on property owners.

In one case, estimated costs for a single property owner for new sidewalk was nearly $40,000.

“If I got a letter from the City telling me I was going to be billed $40,000 for a sidewalk the day after Thanksgiving, I’d be mighty concerned,” Engen said. “Our hard-working staff was just following our policy, but letters like that land with a thud.”

Engen says the increasing costs of materials and challenging bid environment, along with a tight City budget, have inflated the price of infrastructure citywide.

The Mayor says he’ll begin an internal review of the program this month in hopes of launching a less-expensive, strategic sidewalk plan for the city council to consider during the 2020 budget process.

“Citizens aren’t happy with the program, Council members aren’t happy with the program, staff members aren’t happy with the program and, it turns out, I’m not happy with the program,” Engen said. “We can, and will, do better.”

The City Council’s Public Works committee will meet Wednesday, Dec. 12 at 1:25 p.m. to discuss the program and hear from citizens.