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sidewalk outside Stillwater schoolA view looking south down Rt. 4/32 from in front of Stillwater Central School, showing the narrow path children must walk close to traffic before they meet the sidewalk in front of the building.

Long-awaited sidewalk project goes out to bid

September 12, 2012

A long-awaited sidewalk construction project leading to and from Stillwater Central School will finally become a reality, the village announced recently.

Village Trustee Ellen Vomacka said years of planning and delay hurdles by state and federal authorities have been cleared and final approval for the project has been granted by the New York State Department of Transportation.

”Our patience and persistence has paid off,” said Vomacka, Trustee in charge of overseeing the effort. “I work at that end of town and on any given day I see children walking to school and cars flying through there. It’s frightening. These kids need to have a safe path to school. That’s why I’ve been so adamant about seeing this project through till the end.”

The project has gone out to bid and construction proposals are due by 2 p.m., September 17, in the office of the Village Clerk. The contractor will have 40 days to complete the work once the contract is awarded. If all goes according to schedule, the village hopes to have the project completed by November.

The sidewalk project dates back to 2006 when the Vilage of Stillwater applied for the sidewalk grant through the Capital District Transportation Committee and the Chazen Engineering Company prepared an in depth improvement plan for sidwalks for the north end of the village to protect children walking to school every day. Part of that plan included 2,350 feet of new sidewalks and curbing on the east side of the road, and 2,000 feet along the west side of the road — traveling south from the school to meet the existing village sidewalks.

The plan also included installing crosswalks at various locations along the busy route to alert motorists to slow down to pedestrian traffic with “State Law Yield to Pedestrians in Crosswalk” signage.

To finance the project, the village earned a $393,000 “Safe Routes to School” state grant years ago, and the money was put aside while the project could be engineered. Safe Routes to School is a federal, state and local initiative to enable and encourage children, including those with disabilities, to walk and bike to school, and to make walking and biking to school safe and appealing. While the program encourages healthy lifestyles for children, its major goal is to increase bicycle, pedestrian and traffic safety in local communities.

Some time after receiving notification of the grant and the beginning stages of engineering the project, the state Department of Environmental Conservation put the village under a consent order to replace sewer drains along the corridor or face a $758,000 fine.

State officials put the sidewalk construction on hold so the two projects could be designed and engineered as one. That decision led to numerous planning and engineering delays over the years as well as costly proposals totaling up to $2 million — much to rich for the village to afford.

But recently, through further negotiations with the state and re-engineering of the project by Chazen at no cost to the village, the village’s share of the storm sewer work was scaled back to $100,000 — $20,000 of which it has already paid and $80,000 it has budgeted for. The state grant money remains available to pay for the entire cost of the sidewalk construction.

“The whole process has been crazy and frustrating but we didn’t want to give up,” Vomacka said. “All we wanted were a few sidewalks to get our kids off the street. We never envisioned it would come to this.”