Fox Point replacing footbridge

Private funds to be used for part of cost to rebuild

April 11, 2012

Fox Point - After thorough discussion and review the past three years, the village is moving forward on the much-scrutinized footbridge that connects Bridge and Barnett lanes.

Following a two-hour discussion Tuesday, the Village Board voted unanimously in favor of removing the existing footbridge, which has been deteriorating. In its place will likely be a similar structure.

The board's motion calls on civil engineering firm Ayers Associates to provide design services for the project, which did not have a firm timeline amid Tuesday's discussion. There have been many twists and turns throughout the past several years amid the debate. But Village President Mike West, who made the motion, said he believed it was time to make a decision.

"This is simply a next step," West said. "It's merely a direction to staff to go down this particular route with our consultant."

The board's decision means the option of repairing the existing footbridge is off the table. Repair had been discussed as an option in the past, and proponents said such an effort could be beneficial since it would cost less and be the least disruptive to the natural environment.

Trustee Beverly Bell unsuccessfully attempted to keep the repair option open, but her proposal to amend West's motion was defeated in a 5-2 vote.

"I don't think we have thoroughly discussed the possibilities involved in repairing the footbridge," Bell said.

But West and several other board members maintained a different perspective.

"I think we have studied this and studied this and studied this," West said. "I think it's time to move forward."

West's motion also states the new footbridge should be supported with structural steel and the width of the structure is to be no more than 9 feet. Construction materials are to be low maintenance, based on details of the motion.

West said the action he proposed was based out of the varied opinions shared throughout the discussion. The footbridge has been a polarizing issue in the community, with proponents stating the amenity is a village asset and opponents stating the village should allocate financial resources toward other initiatives, including street repairs.

"I listen to you all," West said. "This motion is designed with everyone's interests in mind."

Residents' opinions continued to vary at Tuesday's meeting.

"I think I'd rather see our streets in better condition," resident Dorothy Meyers said. "I think the bridge is nice, but not for the kind of money that's being proposed."

But fellow resident Terry Mcgauran Jr. said the footbridge is a feature open to all residents - not just those living in proximity to it on the east side of the village.

"This is an asset that I don't think we should just throw away," he said.

The board also went on record, stating that a portion of the cost of replacing the footbridge should be covered through fundraising. There had been discussion of seeking $625,000 in donations, though the amount could be a moving target as the endeavor gets under way.

Throughout the footbridge debate, cost estimates associated with removing the existing structure and constructing a new one have hovered around $1.5 million to $1.9 million. Specific figures will be determined as Ayers conducts its design work.

In recent months, several residents have suggested the footbridge issue be placed on an upcoming ballot by way of a referendum question, but that proposal was scrapped as part of the board's decision.

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