Op-Ed: ‘More Light and Less Heat’ on Sport Hill Sidewalk

To the Editor:

When the Board of Finance received the request for funding for the proposed Sport Hill sidewalk I had a number of questions. The main ones were how thoroughly had alternatives been evaluated, why did the cost for a bike and pedestrian pathway cost about double the usual cost to build a two lane road for vehicular traffic, and why, if the driver was the safety of Helen Keller students walking to the Easton Village Store, did the sidewalk extend all the way to Silverman’s?

To me, the answers given were not satisfactory to recommend the expenditure of nearly a quarter of a million dollars of Town funds to a Town Meeting. Since the statutes that govern the Board of Finance call for us to “recommend” appropriations to a Town Meeting as opposed to “passing the buck” I voted No. Since that meeting it has also been made clear that the spending authorization requested at that meeting did not meet the requirements of the reimbursable funding program administered by the State that was to provide an additional million dollars.

Subsequent to that meeting I have done further due diligence and members of the public have supplied other background information such as the actual funding application documents given to the State. I have been in regular contact with the First Selectman to pull together a complete package of information to assist the public in making an informed decision on the project. Considerable progress has been made so I am making the following commitment.

If the Board of Selectmen comes forward with a request for funds in an amount that conforms to the terms of the State’s program and if all the relevant documents, including the application for funding from 2019, correspondence with our Regional Planning Agency, Metrocog, the documents from the State approving the funding including all the terms and conditions, and any other material the Selectmen feel would help people in making an informed decision are made available on the Town website, then I will place the request on the agenda of the next Board of Finance meeting (or call a special meeting if the Selectmen indicate it should not wait for our monthly meeting) and I will support bringing the matter to a Town Meeting.

That may also lead to a referendum, although that is not a decision for the Board of Finance. I hope that following this course of action will result in a lot more light and a lot less heat on this issue.

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