Randy Horiuchi, Democratic candidate for the Salt Lake County Commission, blamed his opponent, Commissioner Tom Shimizu, for "ineffectiveness" that has kept an overpass from being built at a deadly school crossing.
At a press conference near Truman Elementary School and busy 4700 South where an 8-year-old girl was killed a year ago, Horiuchi accused Shimizu of having his funding priorities mixed up. He said he could use his political know-how to help persuade the Legislature to fund school safety improvements throughout Salt Lake County.In response, Shimizu said he has been working hard to raise funds for the project, that the overpass has already been designed and he expects construction to begin sometime next spring. He said he has made a budget commitment to make up any difference that can't be raise through private funds.
"The inability of Commissioner Shimizu to coordinate, catalyze and produce results on an overpass on this busy road continues to endanger the safety of Truman children. A fatal accident, numerous close calls have finally called attention to the hazards," Horiuchi said.
At the same time, Shimizu said that the way Horiuchi is using the project for political gain could prove to be a disservice to fund-raising efforts.
"What he is trying to do is get publicity. He is criticizing wherever he can," Shimizu said. "It can be very harmful when we are trying to raise funds from the private sector . . . These things take time."
Shimizu said that he has helped efforts to raise money for the overpass, expected to cost between $460,000 and $560,000, depending on the results of final negotiations to purchase land across the street from the school. About $228,000 has been raised from a combination of county, Granite School District and private funds. West Valley City refused a request by Shimizu and residents to contribute $50,000.
Horiuchi said the commissioners could have already come up the difference to build the overpass if they had wanted to.
"We just spent a large amount of dollars for property for a golf course that will never get built, enough to have gotten the job done. The commission continues to let prime City and County Building office space go empty, when the revenue derived from occupancy would have been enough to build an overpass here," Horiuchi said.
Shimizu said that such accusations show Horiuchi's lack of understanding about county budgets. He said he could be thrown in jail if he used funds from accounts designated for the City-County Building for a road improvement.
Horiuchi also criticized Shimizu for waiting to fund the overpass fund shortfall out of next year's budget. He said that doesn't help children during the rest of the school year. He also pointed to safety improvements needed at other schools in Salt Lake County.
Shimizu said that safety improvements have been a priority, noting the county's sidewalk improvement program that schedules installation and replacement of sidewalks each year. He also noted that some safety improvements around some schools aren't made because they are on a state highway. In that case, they're the state's responsiblity.