No footbridge for now

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A planned footbridge will not go forward, for now, after Rigby Mayor Jason Richardson cast a tie-breaking vote against it.

After hours of testimony opposing the footbridge from residents of Hunter Creek Subdivision to the south of the Rigby Canal, the Rigby City Council reversed course April 6, in a split vote against the bridge. The council unanimously supported the bridge in budget planning last summer.

One of the four “no” votes, Councilman Benson Taylor said that he didn’t feel all his concerns with the bridge were addressed, but he would be open to discussing the footbridge in the future.

“It’s not off the table. I’d be happy to reconsider at a future date,” he said.

In November, the residents of Hunters Creek, upon hearing about plans to build a footbridge to connect Pioneer Park to their subdivision, spent hours over several meetings, telling the city council that the footbridge would increase crime and traffic, lower their property values, and endanger their children.

At the April 6 meeting, 11 Hunter Creek residents spoke in opposition.

Some of them asked the city council why it was considering the footbridge.

“I cannot, for the life of me, understand the drive for this,” said Todd Housley.

Some said that allowing foot traffic through their subdivision would lower property values, and hurt the investment they had made in purchasing a home in Hunter Creek.

Others told the council again that the bridge would increase the risk of drowning in the Rigby Canal.

“I’m worried that that footbridge will draw people to that canal,” Tiffany Clifford said.

In discussion among the council and mayor, Richardson first offered a compromise. He suggested that the city vacate the stub ends of Fourth West at the Rigby Canal, both north and south of the canal. He said that the bridge could run on an 8-foot wide easement over the canal, and that the property owners could take possession of the remaining property.

That would ensure that no road bridge would ever go over the canal on Fourth West.

“I wonder if that would be a good compromise for what we’re looking at,” Richardson said.

The council did not agree.

“Why would we want to get rid of that?” Olsen said.

He added that a city should not consider getting rid of easements. Councilman Doug Burke and Councilwoman Emily Thomas agreed.

“That inhibits the city on growth,” Burke said.

Richardson said he would like to take it slower and discover the true cost of the bridge, as he said a fence would be necessary to make it safer.

Councilwoman Nichole Weight said that she would like to have a decision that night.

As previously reported, Weight told the council at a May 5, 2016 meeting that she had seen a bike parked in the canal and it gave her pause for the safety of the children. She said that she had heard concerns from residents that children were crossing the canal and a footbridge would be safer.

“I really worry about that. I’d like a (footbridge) to be a priority,” she said.

Olsen at the time was “strongly” in favor of the bridge, saying that he had a family member drown in the canal at Third West Street. Later he said he had changed his mind, and that a bridge would attract children and endanger them more than not having a footbridge.

The city council budgeted $8,000 for the footbridge, though the original estimated cost was $6,000. The budget was approved unanimously on Aug. 18, 2016.

On April 6, Weight moved to go forward with the construction of the bridge at a location Public Works Director Rick Lamoreaux deems best for the city. Burke seconded the motion.

A roll call vote on the footbridge was derailed slightly as Burke questioned whether Councilman Richard Datwyler should abstain from voting as Datwyler lives in Hunter Creek.

City Attorney Robin Dunn said that a disclosure of conflict of interest, and whether he votes, is up to Datwyler.

“It’s a subjective call by Councilman Datwyler,” he said.

Datwyler said that he was objectively voting and not influenced by any conflict of interest.

“I think I would not be compromised by my personal feelings on this,” he said.

The vote was Weight, Burke and Thomas in favor. Datwyler, Olsen and Taylor voted no.

“Then it doesn’t advance,” Richardson said.

To clarify, Clerk Dave Swager asked if Richardson had voted no, and Richardson said he did.

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