Huntingburg adopts policy to consider bike paths, sidewalks in all future street projects

What’s the most important number regarding a person’s health?

Blood pressure; waist size; blood sugar; cholesterol?

Nope.

It’s your zip code, Ashlee Sudbury, Purdue Extension’s community wellness coordinator for Dubois County, told the Huntingburg Council at Tuesday’s meeting.

Sudbury was on hand to answer questions regarding the adoption of a Complete Street policy for the city. The policy requires the city to consider all forms of transportation — walking, biking and automobile — when street improvement or repair projects are being planned.

“You can tell more about your longterm health based on your zip code than you can with height, weight, age or any of those other things,” Sudbury said. “It’s a very impactful thing.”

As part of improving the Huntingburg zip code, the council decided to adopt the Complete Street policy. The policy stems from a Healthy by Design workshop that was held in 2016 in Huntingburg. Host at the Old Town Hall, the half-day workshop included walkthrus of the nearby neighborhoods for participants to conduct visual inspections of sidewalks and intersections. “We examined issues that are part of this (program),” Spinner said.

They also examined Fourth Street and the conceptual design of the Stellar project that included elements of the policy already.

“At the end of the day,” Sudbury said. “This is your policy, and you can make it whatever you want.”

Sudbury pointed out that there are several benefits by adopting the policy and then taking action to improve options for all modes of transportation. Those include healthier citizens as well as increased property values and increased consideration for state funding and grants for special projects.

“It’s not just a physical activity or health and wellness standpoint,” she explained. “It’s looking at the economics of it; it’s looking at the improvement to the community. A lot of research has been done, and you can see in communities that have a Complete Streets policy and have implemented it in their infrastructure, the value of homes goes up considerably.”

Mayor Spinner noted this would not be an ordinance. “We would not be bound to do anything if it wasn’t feasible,” he told the council.

But it would require the project be examined with those items in consideration.

Sudbury is conducting walkability studies in the Jasper, Huntingburg and Ferdinand and has determined they are all pretty similar in their walkability. None have this policy in place.

Councilman Jeff Bounds said since the policy doesn’t require action or come with obligations, it seems like a simple decision.

Councilman Steve McPherron noted he was driving on U.S. 231 Monday and was surprised to see two children walking on the highway near Councilman Glen Kissling’s home. “I didn’t realize they walked on the highway,” he said. “That’s not a good situation.”

“I witness it every day,” Kissling said.

Sudbury pointed out that although that U.S. 231/Main Street was a part of the city, it fell under the state’s jurisdiction just like the major streets in Ferdinand and Jasper. She told the council that she had heard the state was working on some road improvement plans that incorporated similar ideas as the Complete Streets policy. “Not that they are going to come in and do these improvements,” she explained. “But maybe relieve some of that red tape to allow communities to make these improvements.”

Sudbury noted the adoption of the policy comes at a good time with the Stellar Projects currently underway including the Heritage Trail and Fourth Street improvement.

The council also:

  • Approved establishing a law enforcement aid fund to create accessible funds for authorized police personnel to make purchases like illegal contraband for investigations as well as paying confidential informants and potentially purchasing surveillance equipment. The new fund allows a committee made up of the police chief, lieutenant, detective sergeant and mayor to approve use of funds from the account. Only two members of the committee are needed to make the decision. Previously, a committee had to meet to make decisions but in the high-speed world of criminal activities, sometimes decisions need to be made immediately. The new fund policy is needed as the city increases its narcotics investigations with a dedicated narcotics detective.
  • Approved a new fee schedule for park and recreation facilities. The new fees can be found by contacting the city or parks department.
  • Approved removing the covenant on the property across the street from City Hall that precluded it from ever being used for housing.

Huntingburg Council to clear path for multi-use building on Fourth Street

 

  • Approved covering the cost to relocated utility lines along County Road 200W to allow for the Huntingburg Airport’s plans to extend the runway. The cost of the relocation is estimated to be about $32,000.
  • Approved purchasing cameras from Advanced Communications for the Huntingburg Transit vehicles for $3,500. A federal grant will cover $2,800 of the cost, and the remaining $700 will come from the transit department’s budget.
  • The mayor reminded the council that the first 5-5-5 fun run will be held Friday at 5 p.m. It will start at City Hall and end at Teen Outback this year. This is the fifth year for the event.

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