Members of Columbus City Council want to get more input from residents this time around when deciding how to spend money earmarked for infrastructure.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Brown got an earful of it during the Feb. 7 meeting of the Clintonville Area Commission. The chairwoman of council's finance committee was among the guest speakers for the session.
"What we want to try to do is, even more, infuse residents' voices," she said.
Brown noted that in 2018, four hearings on the capital-improvements budget, which she referred to as the "physical investment" in the city, were held in different sectors of Columbus prior to its passage. This time around, the approach is to gather comments from area commissions, civic associations and individuals well in advance of hearings, she said.
The councilwoman emphasized that residents can sway what happens with the budget, from potholes being filled to sidewalks being installed and roadways being repaved or even widened.
At one of last year's hearings, Brown told commission members, a group of students from Independence High School successfully lobbied to have new sidewalks installed near the building on Refugee Road.
Once the pump was primed, the spending suggestions flowed from the CAC.
After providing Brown with a list of potential projects from members of the commission's planning and development committee, Chairwoman Libby Wetherholt urged that attention be paid to Indianola Avenue north of Morse Road.
The road needs to be widened, she said, and to have sidewalks as well as a multiuse path installed to connect with bike lanes that were added south of Morse in 2017 as part of a "road diet."
That suggestion strongly was seconded by B.J. White, the District 9 representative. Indianola north of Morse "falls off the proverbial cliff" as far as people on bicycles are concerned, White said.
"You are left to kind of fend for yourself," she said. "It needs some major attention."
White further asked for street lighting along that stretch of road and a reduction in the speed limit from 45 to 35 mph.
District 4 representative Judy Minister, bringing up a "pet project" she first broached about three years ago, requested some consideration for placing utilities underground along North High Street in Clintonville.
South of the neighborhood, she said, the utilities are primarily underground, but "unsightly wires and leaning utilities poles" are the rule north of the University District.
Brown agreed that placing electric wires and other utilities underground would improve the appearance of the area, but she also pointed out that doing so is "one of the most expensive public improvements."
The city's capital-improvements budget for 2018 was more than $1.01 billion, with most of that amount -- $557 million -- earmarked for water and sewer improvements, according to the city's website.
A record amount of $39 million was set to go toward street repaving.
Other funded projects included $7.5 million for fire apparatus such as medics, platform ladders and engines; $5 million for streetlights; and $20 million to build a new Linden Community Recreation Center.