By RUSSELL JONES
The Vermont Department of Transportation estimates almost 9,000 vehicles pass through Pittsford on Route 7 each day. For nearly a half-mile through the town, with Lothrop School centrally located in that stretch, the sidewalk is the same level as the road.
After nearly two months of discussion, the question of whether the town of Pittsford will have access to Burditt Funds to repair that strip of sidewalk should finally be resolved next Wednesday.
Here’s the background: The town of Pittsford received a grant from the state in 2018 for $100,000 to repair a stretch of sidewalk along Route 7. The grant requires a local match of funds, so the selectboard had asked the OVUU board to allow them to use funds from the Burditt Trust to match the grant. The school board initially said no.
The town and the school board just reached an agreement in January on how the funds could be approved for use. Previously, a unanimous agreement by the selectboard and Pittsford school board was required for approval. Now, because of district school mergers, a majority, including the Pittsford representatives, is needed by the school board to approve use of the trust.
The school board previously rejected a proposal from the town that requested the full $100,000 in March. Town Manager John Haverstock said that was an error and the town sent the school board a new proposal that asked for $50,000 and stated the town would provide the other funds.
The Pittsford selectboard sent an email to the Otter Valley Unified Union on June 7, stating the town’s reasoning behind requesting use of the Burditt Trust fund. The letter starts by highlighting the dangers of that section of road and the way motorists use the sidewalk as a shoulder to pass cars turning left on Furnace Road.
It goes on to describe how a sidewalk would make the roadway appear narrower, thus safer by establishing a calming effect on traffic in front of the school.
“We believe that our request for $50,000 from the Burditt Fund is a modest one,” the letter from Pittsford’s selectboard reads. “After all, given that the Burditt Fund now has a principal balance of approximately $2,700,000, the requested figure amounts to less than the average annual return on the corpus of the Fund.”
When the school board last discussed the topic in March, Bonnie Bourne said she believed the sidewalk was a municipal project, which other board members agreed with.
But the town disagrees.
“This is not a ‘municipal project’ as several OVUUSB members have stated,” the letter continues. “Rather, we believe it is the state… which should address the problem. Unfortunately, the state has made it clear that they do not intend to upgrade the sidewalk before it reconstructs the Village segment of Route 7, now scheduled for 2028 at the earliest.”
Since the beginning of April, the Pittsford Selectboard has been planning to send a group of board members to speak with the OVUU school board about the sidewalk, but either one or the other of Pittsford’s two representatives to the district board — Bonnie Bourne and Bonnie Chmielewski — have been absent from the meetings.
RNESU superintendent Jeanńe Collins said both the Pittsford reps would be at the next meeting and the item is on the agenda. “We anticipate a quorum on June 19,” Collins said.
Selectboard chair Tom Hooker and selectwoman Alicia Malay will be present on behalf of the town of Pittsford when the school board meets on Wednesday, June 19, to make their appeal to the school board.