Council talks benches for sidewalks

Gray Hughes

The Hill City Common Council discussed the possibility of adding trash cans, benches and tables to the newly renovated sidewalks.


But before that, the council heard from a local business owner some concern about the sidewalks being used improperly.


At its meeting on Monday, Brett McMacken, city administrator for Hill City, laid out what the plan would look like.


“They’re great, I love (the new sidewalks),” said Michelle Olson, owner of the Bumpin’ Buffalo. But she had concerns with skateboarders and other people using the sidewalks improperly.


When it came time to discuss the sidewalks, Kathy Skorzewski, Hill City mayor, said the city has been having conversations regarding Olson’s concerns, and she hoped the conversation would further address Olson’s concerns.


McMacken said at the council’s last meeting, the council put on hold purchasing trash cans for the sidewalks. The other issue, he said, would be benches.


“Some businesses have put out their own benches, and there’s some concern with that regarding ADA (American with Disabilities Act) access,” he said. “The other idea is that we have unified-looking benches throughout the whole block. We are going to look at that.”


McMacken added that he has been approached, too, about putting tables at the newly constructed bump out area.


He said the conversations he had were about allowing the tables to be used by anyone to be used for drinking a soft drink or eating ice cream and other similar activities; however, McMacken laid out another possibility.


“Alcoholic beverages would not be permissible there, but there is a part in state law for an alcohol license to be extended to the sidewalk area,” he said.


That would be problematic, though, for some areas because the sidewalk is not wide enough for tables, McMacken said, and if the council wanted to proceed with allowing businesses to allow for alcohol on the sidewalk in front of their business, there would be an evaluation process.


McMacken said he wants a uniform solution to the alcohol question. It would be business-specific, and people would not be allowed to carry open containers down Main Street.


The other issue, he said, is that the sidewalks slope toward the businesses, meaning the sidewalk is not level and the tables would be “off kilter.”


Alderman John Johnson said he was under the impression there could be nothing in the right of way.


To that, McMacken said there is a provision in the city’s agreement with the South Dakota Department of Transportation that there would be no obstacles in the right of way in order to maintain ADA access.


The city can put trash cans along the sidewalk that would be minimalistic that would not block the right of way or impede ADA access.


“The state said they would turn a blind eye (to things in the right of way) but if there’s a lawsuit they cannot be liable,” Johnson said.


That’s why the city needs to be careful, McMacken said. It would be best, he said, if the city went with trash cans that were a half circle and up against the railing or trash cans hanging from the railing.


It makes sense, McMacken reiterated, to have a consistent, accessible and uniform look throughout the sidewalk area.


Alderman Bill Miner said when a committee comes together to discuss the trash cans, it would be best to have the public works director be a part of that committee so he can give input on how public works could handle the trash.


“(The trash cans) need to be functional,” Skorzewski said. “You need to be able to get the trash in and out. …That is the overall plan. There does need to be input from public works on that.”


When it came to move forward with what the council wants to do, alderman Jim Peterson said his recommendation would be to just discuss the benches and discuss the alcohol matter later.


That, he said, is an entirely different can of worms.


The other alderman agreed that the alcohol discussion should be held later and should not be a priority for the city right now.


However, the council did support looking at benches for the town.


“The benches are a unique factor for our town,” said alderman Steve Jarvis.

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