We’re told “many” Ephraim residents would like sidewalks from the Old Fire House to the Beach, but “many” has never been quantified. Let’s consider numbers and the realities for Ephraim Trustees and taxpayers.
At its Oct. 23rd meeting, Ephraim Trustees authorized a half-mile reconstruction of curb, sidewalk and storm water abatement before the Wisconsin DOT November 1st deadline for what will become an unfinished portion of paved Highway 42 in 2019. Three Trustees and one year-round resident favored sidewalks, while six others, including three seasonal residents, spoke against them. Note: There were some 245 registered voters in Ephraim as of November 2016; 70 voted the April 2017 trustees election.
Those three seasonal residents are among the more than 600 seasonal property owners (according to county property tax records) who have no vote and considered by some to have little say regarding how their taxes are spent. Yet further research can prove they actually pay a very substantial amount of the village’s taxes. They are among the “many” seasonal and year-round residents who have spoken and have sent letters to the Village opposing sidewalks, and among them are some of the 45 seasonal residents owning some of Door County’s most expensive shore-front properties along the east side of State Highway 42.
“Many” have opposed sidewalks in meetings and in letters to the village. They also maintain it’s a State highway – not a pedestrian highway; that it isn’t unsafe and has never been declared unsafe by the village, the state, or any qualified safety consultant. “Unsafe” is an opinion shared by some trustees who haven’t either the formal education or the applied experience to make that opinion a fact.
“Many” have said that concrete sidewalks will mar the natural look and feel of the village; that sidewalks will be taken over by bikers who belong on the road. Others believe that three infrastructure projects – managing storm water, replacing streetlights and burying power lines in the historic district—are a better choice and priorities for Ephraim now. The cost of these three projects combined would be $2.1 million – less than the proposed $2.7-2.9 million for the proposed highway reconstruction project. That does not include the substantial added costs at village taxpayers’ expense – estimated in millions of dollars for just and fair compensation – if the village were to acquire expensive property under eminent domain just for sidewalk strips along the half-mile stretch.
Ephraim’s property owners and trustees should realize the three-year-old StreetScape Plan has changed drastically. Infrastructure problems can be resolved now, long before highway repaving begins in 2019. I’ve respectfully asked the trustees to approve these three projects. The 20-year plan indicates no need for a future bond issue. With its good credit, the village can borrow $2.1 million at a low interest rate from a local bank, without any substantial 2018 property tax increase – and without any bond issue in 2018 or 2019.
Richard Van de Ven