State Installing Heated Sidewalks Near Capitol

By: Lauren Zakalik Email
By: Lauren Zakalik Email

When you ask people where they want to see money spent in state government, the answer is usually pretty similar.

"I think education is number one," says LCC student Storm Barnes.

"Education," says mother Heather Wilson.

In fact, an EPIC-MRA poll shows 61 percent of Michiganders support enhancing school funding. But while we've had years and years of cuts to schools, $6.5 million is currently being spent on enhancing the sidewalks around the state Capitol, including $1 million to heat them.

"It's a multi-year project, funded since 2005. It should make it much safer and create efficiencies for us," says Kurt Weiss, who is the spokesperson for the Dept. of Technology, Management and Budget.

Weiss calls the improvements a necessity, with salt eroding the sidewalks and the snow causing

"From a safety standpoint, absolutely," he says.

When it's all said and done, they'll have heated walkways all the way from the Supreme Court to the Capitol. The state says it's a benefit to the people who work here and the people who visit here-- but what about the taxpayers?

"Sounds like kind of a waste," says Mark Rantz, who just moved to Lansing.

"I think it's a little ridiculous," adds Barnes.

Wilson didn't even believe us when we told her about the project.

"They're not, are they?" she says. "Yeah, that would probably make me pretty mad."

Weiss says this project isn't taking any money away from other departments. It's part of $3.8 billion "Jobs Today, Jobs Tomorrow" initiative, meant to improve the economy and give people jobs. Numbers weren't readily available as to how many jobs it's created.

Weiss admits it will take 20 some-odd years to see the cost savings of the heated sidewalks. With the cost around $1 million for the heating system, and $20,000 a year for salting and shoveling, the cost savings will not be immediate.

"I certainly understand how people could think this is frivolous," Weiss says, but wants people to remember it's meant to improve the economy.

He says there's been no discussion of putting the project off until better financial times, and no one has sued the state for falling because of the snow in recent memory, Weiss says.


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