Pensacola city councilwoman Sherri Myers has tried for years to get funding for sidewalks on Burgess Road, a project which city staff has said is not a top priority.
At the council’s first of two final budget hearings Wednesday night, Myers finally got the money, narrowly winning a vote to pull $1.6 million from the city’s paving management program and earmark it for Burgess Road. Council members Larry B. Johnson and P.C. Wu voted against Myers’ amendment, while council president Brian Spencer was absent from the hearing.
“We’ve been trying to get sidewalks and drainage on Burgess Road for the last 20 years,” Myers said.
Myers has repeatedly argued that the lack of sidewalks on Burgess Road is a hazard for neighborhood children who walk to the nearby Holm Elementary, Workman Middle, and Washington High schools. She’s raised the issue often during her seven years on the city council, though her past attempts to win funding for the project have either been voted down or withdrawn.
“I have spoken to folks at the school board and Burgess Road did not make their high priority list,” Johnson said.
A maximum of 29 students would utilize sidewalks on Burgess Road, according to a letter sent by Robert Doss, the school district’s director of transportation, to Johnson in August. In a separate letter to Myers, Doss said that while the school district supports the installation of sidewalks on Burgess, he concurs with the city’s prioritization of projects.
“I recognize that budget dollars are scarce, and I concur with the prioritization of projects throughout the City in the order of their hazard severity, in whatever district they exist,” Doss wrote.
Mayor Ashton Hayward’s office has repeatedly said that there are other sidewalk needs within the city which are a higher priority than Burgess Road.
“The mayor does not consider it a priority based on the recommendations he has received from City staff, but he respects the fact that a majority of council members find a significant public purpose in the project that justifies the expenditure,” said city spokeman Vernon Stewart.
Stewart said that funding the Burgess Road sidewalks will mean that other neighborhoods will lose out.
“The Burgess Road project will result in the addition of 4200 feet of new sidewalk, or equivalent of 14 city blocks,” Stewart said. “If we spent the $1.6 million on the construction of sidewalks in places that did not require all of the additional work that Burgess Road will require, we could construct about 130 blocks of new sidewalk.”