Columbia Residents Push for Better Sidewalks

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COLUMBIA - Columbia residents who use wheel chairs, and some that don't, met for the Walk and Roll Project Wednesday. The group said they attempted to shed light on the poor shape of Columbia sidewalks and roads.

Charles Dudley, Advocate for Citizens with Disabilities, said they hope to show the city how difficult it currently is for people with disabilities to get around Columbia. Phyllis Black, a wheelchair user, said the sidewalks on the west end of Columbia are the worst. "I had to have the police come get me out of a big crack there last year."

Dudley said the poor condition of sidewalks is bad for the wheelchairs themselves. He said it wears down the tires. Black said she has had two chairs in two years. The chairs, Dudley said, are not cheap and are bought with taxpayer money from Medicaid. Dudley and Black said better sidewalks could help keep wheelchairs in better condition for longer, which could end up costing taxpayers less.

Tony St. Romaine, Deputy City Manager, attended the walk and said it was an eye-opener. St. Romaine repeated the phrase, "walk a mile in another man's shoes, this was riding two miles in another person's wheelchair. For someone people who doesn't do that on a regular basis it was a great way to look and observe some of the obstacles that people in wheelchairs encounter everyday in Columbia."

St. Romaine said he hopes the city can make changes to sidewalks in Columbia soon. St. Romaine said it's all about how much money they can dig out from the City Budget. He said the City currently assessed around $1.2 million need for transition plans, and this year they can only set aside $200,000 for those projects. St. Romaine said they will hopefully get around to assessing money needed for sidewalks and roads this fiscal year, and can start repairs once money is set aside from the City's budget.