Blind man nearly falls in the street because sidewalk near home ends

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Mike Keech just wants to walk safely in Pasco County. He is blind and his service dog, Shadow, is well-trained and able to get Keech where he needs to go.

He lives near restaurants, a barber and a movie theater, but walking to any of them from his home is dangerous. That’s because the sidewalks are busted up and sometimes just end, leading to grass and then busy streets. Keech cannot walk the sidewalk that leads from his neighborhood to U.S. 19 because it ends. That means he has to take a long path to safely get where he needs to go.

Guide dog in Pasco County

“I want to be able to walk down the street just like you walk down the street,” he said. “I want to be able to go to RaceTrac. I want to go to Carrabba’s. I want to go the Breakfast Club. I want to go to Sweet Tomatoes.”

For eight years Keech pleaded with county officials for help – and not just for him. He told News Channel 8 a man fell out of his wheelchair after the sidewalk ended and the wheels got caught up in wet grass.

Keech said county officials told him he may have a sidewalk by sometime around 2018. So he called 8 On Your Side.

“That is not acceptable,” Keech said. “That’s 10 years, 10 years for a sidewalk.”

Pasco County Commissioner Mike Wells said has been working to help Keech and others like him. We wanted to know why it is taking so long.

“I’m not sure,” he said. “I just know that has. Soon as he brought it to my attention when I got elected, I brought it to staff’s attention, and we worked on it.”

Guide dog in Pasco County

Engineer Margaret Smith said much of Pasco County has older neighborhoods that need new sidewalks. It comes down to funding and prioritizing which sidewalks come first.

“Is there a school nearby that we need to get to?” Smith explained of criteria the county reviews when deciding which sidewalks are needed first. “How many pedestrians are out there? What are safety issues around the corridor?”

Smith said the sidewalk near Keech’s home is already in the pipeline and the job was sent out to bid. Wells said he set a deadline for that particular sidewalk for June.

Be sure to watch Shannon’s report tonight at 11 p.m. on News Channel 8.

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