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June 7, 2013

OUR VIEW: Providing a safer way to school

Nearly two-and-a-half years after a $220,000 Safe Routes to School grant was awarded, work still hasn’t begun on new sidewalks along two streets leading to Galveston Elementary School.

Officials say Maple and Woodland streets were identified as two of the best options to make the children’s journey to and from school less treacherous. Neither street has sidewalks, so the kids walking back and forth to school often walk on roadways.

The town council on Monday again discussed what steps need to be taken to move this project forward. But whatever is decided, it’s going to cost the town money.

The federal grant administered by the Indiana Department of Transportation was supposed to cover the complete cost of about 3,000 feet of new sidewalk. But material and labor prices increased last year, driving costs $121,000 above the $220,000 grant.

Preliminary engineering for the project was finished last year, but council members decided not to follow through. The $350,000 price tag was just too expensive.

After Marty Spees of Fleis and Vandenbrink Engineering told council members the town would have to repay the state about $40,000 for the engineering costs, the time frame to accept that $350,000 bid had closed.

Spees told council members Monday a rebid of the project will cost the town $100,000 more than the $220,000 grant. The new bid is good through July.

Pat Gunnell, the town council president, said back in January that council members hadn’t decided where the additional funding will come from. They still haven’t. If they decide to do nothing, they now must repay about $50,000 to the state.

The Safe Routes to Schools projects have two purposes: They are designed to make those daily walks to school less dangerous. They are also designed to make the walks more likely.

Getting kids off the couch and exercising is an important goal in a time when the nation finds more and more kids struggling with their weight, and if children are using those sidewalks, they might start using them at other times, too.

And, of course, there’s no rule that says the sidewalks must be used only by youngsters. More than a few adults could also use a bit of exercise.

We encourage Galveston officials to find the money to complete the sidewalk project. It will cost them $50,000 if they do nothing, and $100,000 if they move ahead.

Sidewalks on Maple and Woodland streets will be of benefit to town residents of all ages.

 

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