Why Isn’t The Lawton CIP Paying For Sidewalks
While we've been excited to see the improvements made to Cache Road up until the election, at which point they seemed to have stopped, it makes a person wonder what the CIP (Capital Improvement Plan) will fund next. Mayor Booker said back in December of 2019 that most of what they were planning would be long-term projects, but some seem easy enough, or at least in such desperate need of, they should hop on some projects now.
The question of the moment shouldn't be "Why doesn't Lawton have sidewalks?" Instead, we should be asking "Why isn't the Lawton CIP funding the installation of sidewalks right now?"
Think about it. What is a sidewalk? It's a mini-street. Someone digs a three or four-foot-wide by three or four-inch deep trench and they fill it with steel and concrete. Simple enough isn't it? Based on how many people end up walking in most of our busiest streets due to a lack of sidewalks now, what could be more important?
Even the smallest of Southwest Oklahoma towns have and are rebuilding their sidewalks, why isn't Lawton getting our first alternative transportation avenues?
For instance, Apache just voted to redo, improve, and build out new sidewalks to connect the different places of their town, like Main Street and the schools there. They even managed to get a grant that will pay 80% of it from ACOG. That's the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments... and before you say it, Apache is not in Central Oklahoma, once again proving that funds and programs are available.
Even the small tiny town we talked about last week, Hollis, has redone their sidewalks. In fact, I think the main street and downtown area have been completely redone a handful of times over the last twenty years... Mostly in part to hiring the lowest bidding contractor and a series of failed installations, but progress is progress, and those new sidewalks are nice.
I think it's fair that the cost to install sidewalks along every road in town would probably be way more expensive than the funds CIP has made available, but if they start small and just focus on the main roads like Cache, Gore, Lee, etc... the dividend payback in saved time from responding to reports of someone walking in the street and/or getting hit right?
I remember a story told to me by one of our local business owners that went through this with the city when rebuilding their business from the ground up. As the lot owner of a business along our busiest road in town, the sidewalk construction and maintenance was put in his charge as a private citizen. How is that fair? The city maintains an easement, if they want sidewalks there, they should pitch in and do their part. Especially while they're flush with CIP funds.
Of course, in talking with some of our elected city councilors, they all stick to a same/same story of Lawton not having enough money to do meaningful and instantly impactful projects like roads and sidewalks... but it didn't stop them all from pushing the CIP vote based on these two things. The way I figure, if they have enough to buy a mall for nearly twice was it last sold for after losing two cornerstone businesses, surely an audit could find sidewalk money.