September 9, 2010

Health Survey Identifies Need For Sidewalk Upgrades

Three out of every four individuals that completed the recent Memphis sidewalk survey conducted by the Scotland County Health Department agreed there was a need for additional walkways in town.

Laurie Jack presented the findings from the 2009 study at the September meeting of the Memphis City Council. She indicated that 132 surveys were completed and returned to the health department. The survey was part of a Maternal and Child Health (MCH) grant awarded to the health department, which is targeting obesity as a health priority.

As a result of the survey, Jack said the health department is pursuing additional grant options, including the Missouri Foundation for Health, looking for funding for sidewalk improvements.

The study revealed that 86% of respondents believed that making Memphis a walking/exercise friendly community is a priority, with 84% citing a need to improve the existing sidewalks in town.

The survey also pointed out the respondents did not believe city government was aware of the issue, with 59% of respondents stating the aldermen were not aware of the importance of sidewalks.

ďI feel the aldermen couldnít help but be aware of the lack of sidewalks in the Memphis area, but donít care,Ē was the comment on one survey.

The city council annually budgets up to $10,000 to help offset the cost of installing sidewalks, which are the responsibility of the property owner of the private lands on which they are built

Street Superintendent Roy Monroe estimated the cost of installation of a new sidewalk at $3 per foot. The city will reimburse landowners $1.50 per foot of sidewalk installed.

Annually this funding goes unused as property owners do not take advantage of the program.

The council discussed the possibility of earmarking unused sidewalk funding from the private sector to be spent on installation of new walking routes on public grounds.

Identifying these keys routes may be difficult, as survey responses were mixed. Roughly 40% of respondents wanted additional sidewalks on Highway 136 near Jís, Pamida, Gas & More and Dollar General. A similar number also stated new sidewalks on Highway 15 near the school and the Tiger Trail walking course is a priority while 30% want additional sidewalks on Highway 15 to the square.

Monroe currently is pursuing grant funding for the city through the Missouri Department of Transportation that would improve the sidewalks on Highway 15 as well as widening many of the intersections. He indicated the city hopes to learn the fate of the application by the end of the month.

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