‘It’s a community investment we need to make’
NEW MILFORD — Town officials are exploring where to get $400,000 to use a federal grant to install sidewalks along key sections of Route 7.
New Milford has received two grants that will cover sidewalk installations, both of which were applied for under former Mayor David Gronbach.
The federal Transportation Alternatives grant requires a 20 percent local match of the about $1.7 million, so Town Council is considering asking the Finance Board to allocate up to $400,000 from the Landfill Settlement Fund.
However, several council members doubt this is an appropriate use of the fund and some question if the town can now afford $400,000. The town applied for this grant through the Western Connecticut Council of Governments and Public Works Director Mike Zarba said he assumed West COG would spread the money to other projects if the town was unable to pay.
“We all support public walkways, it’s just the $400,000 is a bit steep,” Councilwoman Katy Francis said.
Town Council members are waiting to vote until more members can attend. They’re also waiting until they know the deadline for their portion of the funding and alternative sources. One suggestion was to build it into the budget if it can wait until July 1.
Under this grant, sidewalks will be installed from the condos to the high school and then to the Savings Bank of Danbury. The second piece is by Litchfield Crossings and the third section will be from Canterbury School to downtown.
“It’s a community investment we need to make,” Zarba said. “We owe it to our citizens to make it safer.”
He said these pieces were chosen because they saw more people walking along these sections of Route 7.
Councilman Walter Bayer agreed with the need and said the sidewalks should have been installed years ago when the state upgraded the road.
The sidewalk would have to be maintained by the property owners adjoining that section. Zarba said they will speak with those people soon and plans to explain how this will attract business and improve the town.
Councilman Mike Nahom said he expects those property owners to accept this project. He said it will increase foot traffic to those businesses and the condos will no longer have to worry about high school students crossing through the complex.
“I don’t think it will be a hard sell,” he said.
The Community Connectivity Grant doesn’t require a local match and will let the town install sidewalks outside of John Pettibone Community Center. A new Housatonic Area Regional Transit bus stop will also be put outside of the building.
Adding sidewalks here was part of the requirements the Zoning Commission added when it approved the rezoning to turn the former school into a community center.