City's appeal is warranted

Thursday, November 9, 2006

I applaud the Cassville City Council's recent decision to appeal a court ruling that would force the city to remove a portion of sidewalk along Main Street near the school. I do not pretend to be a lawyer nor was in the courtroom when the case was argued, but common sense would tell me that a private citizen's right to be able to mow his lawn to his liking should not supercede the public's right to travel along city streets in safety.

This particular sidewalk was constructed after the new Cassville Branch Library was built and it became apparent that there was no longer a safe route for children to travel to and from the library. A local businessman and philanthropist offered to help fund construction of a new sidewalk, and work on the new walkway was completed. For the past four-plus years, local citizens have been using this sidewalk. To dig up one portion of a highly traveled walkway seems ludicrous. Having to abide by this court decision would also result in a huge waste of taxpayers' money due to the whim of one property owner.

This case raises several different questions, one of which centers on how a local county court could have jurisdiction over a sidewalk that is actually located on Missouri Department of Transportation right-of-way. We assume this will be one of the issues raised in the appeals process, and we believe this is where the issue has implications beyond just the City of Cassville.

Personal property rights are fundamental, but in this specific instance, I believe an individual's rights should not be allowed to interfere with the city's responsibility to provide for public safety. This sidewalk was constructed with the property owner's knowledge several years ago. It would seem that the time to contest the sidewalk's construction had passed. I was in attendance at all the council meetings where the sidewalk project was discussed, and not once did this property owner or his attorney appear before the council to publically state any objections to the sidewalk. The entire construction process was handled openly and according to city procedure. Allegedly, the property owner was angered by a letter mailed to him and decided to retaliate by taking the city to court over the sidewalk.

If this decision is allowed to stand, justice has not been served. Instead one person has gotten their way at the expense of the safety of our school-age children who use this sidewalk to travel back and forth from school and back and forth from the library safely.