PROSPECT — Most of the 70 or so people who filled the council chambers at Town Hall Aug. 8 for a hearing on a Route 69 sidewalk project urged the Town Council to support the plan, citing safety concerns for pedestrians — particularly children — among their top reasons.
The Town Council agreed.
The council voted, 7-0, to accept a Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program (LOTCIP) grant for the project. In a separate 7-0 vote, the council authorized Mayor Robert Chatfield to transfer $77,700 from the town’s general fund balance to the non-recurring capital account to cover the cost of designing the sidewalk.
The state Department of Transportation has committed to fund $752,288 in LOTCIP funding for the sidewalk project. The town is responsible for the cost of the design work.
The plan is to build a 5-foot-wide sidewalk that’s roughly 3,100 feet long along the west side of Route 69, also known as Waterbury Road, from the intersection of routes 69 and 68 in front of St. Anthony Church to the entrance of Hotchkiss Field. The plan includes a pedestrian crosswalk signal at the intersection of Old Schoolhouse Road and Route 69.
“It’s a true benefit. I’m glad for everyone that’s here supporting it because I think we really need it. It’s going to make a big difference in our lives. It’s going to improve safety and improve our downtown area,” said council member Carla Perugini-Erickson, who chairs the town’s sidewalk task force.
The task force spent the past several years working on the project and pursuing grant funding.
There are small sections of sidewalk in front of the CVS Pharmacy on Route 69 and Town Hall, but there are none on the west side of the road. Those who favored the project said people walk along the heavily-traveled road and it’s unsafe. They pointed to children, especially from Long River Middle School, who walk on the road to get to Hotchkiss Field or one of the nearby stores.
Long River Middle School Principal Derek Muharem, who lives in Prospect and has three children, said it’s typical for 15 to 20 students to walk to Hotchkiss Field after school.
“I think it (the sidewalk) is something the town is lacking,” he said.
Resident Michael McInerney said when he drives through town he always sees people walking down the street and it’s a safety issue.
“I think it’s a great idea. It’s long overdue,” he said about the sidewalk.
A few residents felt the sidewalk isn’t necessary and expressed concerns about the town’s long-term liability for the sidewalk. Since the sidewalk is built on a state road in a commercial area, officials said the town is responsible for maintaining it, including snow removal.
Resident James DeCosta said even though the town received a state grant to build the sidewalk, the money still comes out of taxpayers’ pockets.
Milone & MacBroom, an engineering firm out of Cheshire, will design the project and oversee the bid process. The council didn’t take action on a proposal from Milone & MacBroom to inspect the project during construction for $68,000, deciding to wait until the start of construction is closer to explore the town’s options.
The design stage is expected to take about five to six months. The project will go out to bid over the winter, and work is expected to start in the spring of 2020.