WALLINGFORD — City Council has voted unanimously in favor of a $500,000 grant application to make streetscape improvements on Hall Avenue and repair downtown sidewalks.
Streetscape work on Hall Avenue would add brick pavers between the curb and sidewalk and ornamental lighting to a segment of the road between North Cherry Street and Route 5, extending the pavers and lighting added to Hall Avenue between River Road and North Cherry Street a few years ago.
City Engineer Alison Kapushinski said the Hall Avenue project would cost between $300,000 and $350,000. The remainder of the city’s requested $500,000 grant would be used to repair other downtown sidewalks along Center Street.
“When we’re looking at this, we’re really focusing on downtown sidewalks… It’s basically if you take the Center Street corridor between Hall and Quinnipiac, down to Washington, down to Elm and about a block in both ways. So we thought that would be a great use of those funds, that supports what the funding program envisions, which has to do with economic development in inner cities,” Kapushinski said at the board meeting on Tuesday evening. .
The request seeks a portion of the $30 million available through the state’s Small Town Economic Assistance Grant, administered by the Office of Policy and Management. OPM spokesman Chris Collibee said this year’s total allocation is double the $15 million allocated in 2021.
The STEAP grant provides up to $500,000 to municipalities for capital projects and gives preference to those who commit to a 20% match. Kapushinski said if the city gets the grant, it will revert to the council for a $100,000 match to bring the project’s total budget to $600,000.
If the city does not receive the grant — or receives less than the $500,000 it is seeking — Kapushinski said his office will pursue other funding opportunities. She doesn’t expect streetscape or sidewalk improvements to go ahead with city funding alone.
Councilors asked if more funds could be sought to repair even more sidewalks downtown. The city is replacing damaged sidewalks on a rotating schedule of 13 zones throughout the city, with temporary repairs being made to sidewalks outside of the current zone.
“I would say we should be able to make exceptions for unsafe and damaged sidewalks, especially in our town center where there’s a lot of foot traffic and where we have businesses that want to bring people in,” the councilor said. Samuel Carmody. “It’s a beautification factor and if it takes a long time to get through some of these other areas, I think it makes sense to change that procedure and go to our town center to make sure that our sidewalks are safe.”
Resident Fran LaFrance said the temporary fixes and horizontal cuts she’s seen made by city contractors often don’t provide a safe, accessible route for people in wheelchairs.
“Every piece I see on the pavement material is like a bubble, where it’s not flush…the fact that it looks like a muffin when baked. It has to be really flat for people in wheelchairs or walkers, a lot of those in town,” she said.
The state of the city’s sidewalks became a topic after a 62-year-old man died last month after being hit while rolling in his motorized wheelchair on South Main Street. His family and friends said he rode on the streets because he found the sidewalks too bumpy. The accident remains under investigation.
Councilman Vincent Testa said at a town hall meeting last month that a representative from the state Department of Transportation mentioned that the federal bipartisan infrastructure law includes funding for road safety through the Safe program. Streets and Roads for All. He asked if the city could apply for the sidewalk rehabilitation program.
“When I heard of so much money available and what it could be used for, and I have long been aware of the need to replace sidewalks all over the city, it seems like it would be a terrible opportunity to miss, so I hope the administration will pursue this,” he said.
Kapushinski said additional sidewalk work could be done outside of the city’s rotating schedule, however, there’s a cap on how many projects the city can design and oversee at one time before needing help. hire external consultants. Temporary repairs and sidewalk replacements are done by contractors that require municipal oversight.
Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said the schedule was created to ensure sidewalks are repaired in a timely manner.
“What was happening was hopscotch, who-knew-who jumps and repairs weren’t progressing in a consistent and predictable way,” Dickinson said. “So people who are in other areas of the city are also concerned about the state of their sidewalks, their safety, etc. So we thought we would give everyone the same assurance that we were going to take care of their sidewalk, we developed the zoned approach and that also helped in supervising the contractors doing the work because they weren’t all over town and it is much more difficult to determine who does what.
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