No more Westside sidewalks for Sides
Over the past 16 years, a number of Westsiders have come to know Don Sides.
For most of that time, the Missouri transplant has been the city's point man for public improvements - chiefly sidewalks, curbs and gutters in the older Westside and Mesa Springs areas - deploying millions of dollars in federal money from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.
His city career ended this week. He's accepted a retirement package from the city, he said in an interview, with no immediate plans except to see his grandchildren more often.
Sides said that a hiring process is under way for his replacement, but in the meantime he has tried to leave the older Westside's program in good shape. A quickly added project recently paved a badly rutted block of Platte Avenue off 14th Street; a contract for sidewalks along Manitou Boulevard is scheduled to start in October; and surveying is set to get under way soon in preparation for a project to upgrade and/or add sidewalks, curbs and gutters on Armstrong Avenue between 17th and 21st streets.
Even after the Armstrong project is paid for - exact costs are not yet known - there will still be close to $350,000 in the Westside budget, Sides estimated. And, barring changes at the federal level, a new stipend of $150,000 or so should become available to the Westside in April.
Welling Clark, president of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN), has worked with Sides for several years to help get the word out to neighbors about CDBG improvement proposals. “Don was wonderful,” he said, adding his regret at the public servant's departure. “He was low-key, but he looked out for the citizens and always wanted to do things right.”
At a meeting in 2007, Sides had to break the news to the Mesa Springs area that the CDBG program was to be terminated after 20 years. But he still got praise from Mesa Springs Community Association President George Gravenstein. “They've [CDBG] done a lot in the 20 years, they really have,” he said after the meeting. “Don has always been good about helping out in our neighborhood.”
A couple of Sides' favorite projects on the Westside were challenging ones: a Uintah Street sidewalk project that required retaining walls and a joint effort with City Parks to develop the Promontory Point Open Space.
The CDBG program is geared for neighborhoods that have lower-income residents and infrastructures that need modernizing. That could potentially lead to bickering over priorities or complaints about government bureaucracy, but Sides has generally avoided such problems. “I think it helps when you're working with people that they feel you care and it's not just a job to you,” Sides said.
Westside Pioneer article