Newtown resident Joseph Draper announced to a group of Newtown officials January 7 his plan to guarantee at least $200,000 to fortify a nominal memorial fund and serve as a challenge to others to donate toward completing a sidewalk loop that will eventually link all but one of Newtown’s schools.
Mr Draper, a principal with Ice Energy and Pacific Advantage Capital, met with First Selectman Pat Llodra, Health District Director Donna Culbert, Land Use officials George Benson and Jean St Jean, as well as Newtown Borough Burgess Jay Maher in the council chambers for an extended discussion about the grant.
The land use officials also brought maps of the proposed sidewalk loop and satellite images of the area destined for sidewalks under this latest grant.
In 2011, town officials began aggressively pursuing grants to begin planning and constructing a sidewalk loop that would run the length of Wasserman Way and Mile Hill Road South to South Main Street, extend north to sidewalks at Glover Avenue, and running eastward from Main Street down Church Hill Road to Sandy Hook Center.
Sidewalks would also be completed from Sandy Hook Center up Washington Avenue to Newtown High School and the intersection of Wasserman Way and Berkshire Road. Additional spurs would extend up Riverside Road to the entrance to Sandy Hook School, and potentially between the middle school and Mile Hill South via Queen Street.
Mrs Llodra told the group that the regional planning agency covering Newtown has already conceptually endorsed sidewalks connecting Glover Avenue to Mile Hill Road South.
Mr Draper’s announcement came just a day or two ahead of the town releasing a Request For Proposal for design and construction of an approximately 300-foot sidewalk extension that would connect Main Street to sidewalks that resume just west of The Newtown Bee offices on Church Hill Road. Mr Maher estimated that project could be completed for about $100,000 including obtaining easements to construct a retaining wall on the west side of Church Hill Road near the Main Street intersection.
Mr Benson said the RFP would require the sidewalk project to follow standards established for sidewalks in the Borough Historic District. Mr Maher said that the necessity to create at least one retaining wall would provide the borough and the town an opportunity to add a formalized retaining wall criteria to applicable projects.
While officials said they would consider the possibility of extending Church Hill sidewalks on both the north and south sides of the road, Mr Maher cautioned that sidewalks on the south side — in the shadow of Trinity Church — would be shaded most days and would tend to remain frozen or icy because sunlight would not reach the area to thaw it during winter months.
This prompted a question from Mrs Llodra about whether the RFP should stipulate the upper Church Hill expanse be built with some type of nonslip surfacing because of the relatively sharp incline involved. Mr Maher, who is a concrete construction expert, said it would be feasible to apply such a surfacing if deemed necessary.
Mr Benson said once a selected contractor fixes a cost to the finished north side, officials would decide if a second sidewalk and retaining wall could be built on the south side of the street, possibly with a connecting crosswalk. He said his hopes are the donation will inspire others to step up and provide additional funds or sponsorship for other stretches of sidewalk in the loop.
Mrs Llodra pointed out that she is supporting capital funding for added sidewalk construction in the loop as well. The first selectman said she hopes to see other sidewalks developed in well-traveled areas including along Elm Drive between the Ram Pasture and Dickinson Park.
Mr Maher said he has been a strong supporter of sidewalk installations going back to 2001 when the borough initiated a $200,000 fund that helped complete more than 2,000 linear feet of sidewalks in the ensuing 12 years.
Mr Draper said his contribution will supplement about $4,000 that has been donated to a children’s memorial sidewalk fund being administered by the town through the Parks & Recreation Department. He hopes that any money left over after the Church Hill Road project can be developed into a challenge grant for additional sidewalk construction and streetscaping.
This report was updated January 10 to correct an error on the amount of money in a memorial sidewalk fund being administered by the Parks & Recreation Dept.