With a city divided (4-3), long-awaited fix begins | In Our Opinion | Feb. 27

Whew! After Wednesday night’s four-hour airing of the community differences over the Winslow Way project, we can finally stagger forward with it. The City Council’s 4-3 vote (what else?) to approve the first direct expenditure (a $1.17 million engineering contract) required to fix the embattled street more or less ends a year’s worth of haggling over its composition and funding.

While the obvious need to fix the street’s underground infrastructure has been kicked around for at least 25 years, getting it done has been unworkable. The devisiveness was on parade again Wednesday when an overflow crowd offered its opinions to the council. While it may have been excrutiating to hear the same old arguments, it was encouraging to see how well-versed and passionate the many speakers were about the subject.

Yes, our little dig needs to be done. Yes, the process has been lengthy, expensive and unnecessarily complicated because of a disconnect between the city and community regarding the scope of the project and what we can afford. Yes, the water and sewer ratepayers in the downtown core are being asked to shoulder an inequitable amount of the burden – as much as $5 million – without even knowing exactly how much. And, unequivocally yes, the timing couldn’t be worse.

But the decision has been made, finally, so it’s time to shift our attention to the project. The focus now needs to be on doing it right, and the most important aspect of that goal is ensuring active involvement by the community, especially those who have been against it. Their full participation is critical because the city – any city, for that matter – often tends to think it has all the answers when it doesn’t. This needs to be a community effort.

To that end, the council has already started the ball rolling by asking that an advisory task force for the project be formed.

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