Town Council approves $25K for Main Street sidewalk study
The Town Council last week approved $25,000 to study the Main Street sidewalks after numerous residents spoke out about the issue.
In order to fully understand the costs, options and safety concerns of installing sidewalks on the south end of Main Street, the Council compelled Public Works to engage in an engineering and design study to answer the questions. The study is expected to take approximately six weeks according to Tiger Mann, assistant director of Public Works, at which point the findings will be presented to Town Council and the Police Commission before a decision is made. If approved after the completed study, Mann said a construction start date could be in an around July 1 after another bidding phase.
"Which was very close to where we wanted to be," Mann said. "Which was building during the summer months when traffic is reduced, with everyone out of town."
Council discussed the merits of both sides of the sidewalk discussion, taking into account the opinions of residents and colleagues who spoke at the previous public meetings. In fact, this decision to start the study came after the Town Council Public Works Subcommittee recommended the installation of new sidewalks in a 3-1 vote at the last public hearing March 8.
"I've listened. I've read. I've been stopped on the street. I've listened to both sides of the discussion," Council member Penny Young said. "I have really struggled with my decision on my vote this evening because there have been some very, very good arguments presented on both sides but I would like to move forward on this study so that we actually have the specific information that is necessary."
Almost the entire Town Council shared those same sentiments and unanimously voted to move forward with the study, with the exception of Christine Hussey, who recused herself as a Main Street resident.
As has been the case since the sidewalk issue began, the two primary concerns of residents and officials alike are cost and safety.
"All of us feel very conscious of the economy were in," Chairman Mark DeWaele said. "We need more information to actually know what those costs are."
The next public meeting for sidewalk discussion will be scheduled in approximately six weeks after the study is complete.
The sidewalk proposal has been in place for some time. In 2007, Public Works did a safety survey with South School parents. In that survey, Mann said, 85 percent of respondents noted high-speed vehicles, 85 percent noted a high volume of traffic, 58 percent noted sidewalk deficiencies and 70 percent said that if there were new continuous sidewalks then they would most likely allow their children walk to school.
"The number one concern they came up with was a lack of continuous sidewalks in their area," Mann explained.
The same respondents identified four main roads that needed to be addressed in terms of sidewalks: Main Street; Old Norwalk Road; Farm Road; and South Avenue.
In 2008, Public Works went to Planning and Zoning to make sure the proposal fit with the 2003 Plan of Conservation and Development. Residential concerns, liability issues and ordinance matters continued to delay the issue.
It was not until the Board of Finance and Town Council approved a $4 million bond for the road paving initiative last month did the sidewalk controversy pop up again. As of now, the proposal for upgrading and fixing the sidewalks is estimated to be $600,000 according to Mann. That estimate reflects adding sidewalks in conjunction with paving Main Street; however, the $600,000 does not fund the paving of the road.
With a notice of intent for a referendum in the air, a petition supporting the sidewalks and a study in the works, everything will likely come to a head very soon.