Pittsford Selectboard must find new way to fund repairing dangerous sidewalk
By RUSSELL JONES
The Pittsford Selectboard showed up at the Otter Valley Unified Union school board meeting on Wednesday, June 19, to make their case about a section of sidewalk they were hoping to use Burditt Trust funds to replace. After their presentation and some brief discussion among the school board members, the request was denied.
After receiving a $100,000 grant from the state in 2018, the town started looking for the money to meet the local match. The selectboard decided to ask for Burditt Trust funds. Both the selectboard and the school board must agree upon those funds, left to the town for the school children of Pittsford.
After a legal question was settled in mediation, the town asked the school two months ago for $100,000 for the funds to build the sidewalk. After the school said no to that request, the town went back on Wednesday to ask for $50,000. Once again, the board declined to fund the sidewalk project.
When the first request was turned down, the school board members felt that the sidewalk was a municipal problem and something the town should fix, because the town owns the sidewalk, rather than using school funds. At Wednesday’s meeting, the school board members still reflected the opinion that this was not a problem the school should pay to fix.
Pittsford rep Bonnie Bourne said she had read through the paperwork for the Burditt Trust fund and did not see anywhere in those documents where the fund should be used for town projects.
Because court mediation determined that the Pittsford representatives must both be in agreement to disburse Burditt funds, the vote of Bourne was very important.
“It’s pretty clear I haven’t supported using Burditt funds for this issue,” Bourne said before asking several questions she said people have asked her. “Why hasn’t the town put it out there as a project?” she asked the selectboard.
Pittsford selectboard chair Tom Hooker said the town was trying to keep from having to raise taxes for the residents.
“The state has ignored that section of highway,” Bourne continued. “That’s not a Pittsford or a Burditt problem.”
Unlike the town of Brandon, which owns Route 7 going through the town, Pittsford does not own the highway or the sidewalk. The sidewalks are part of the state’s right-of-way for the road and all Pittsford does in regards to maintenance is to clear snow in the winter.
“I realize that this is maybe not a municipal project, I’ll agree,” Hooker said, “but do we need to do something about it? I think we do.”
“If you don’t come along with it and you don’t do it and some kid gets killed,” the selectboard chair then asked, “who’s it going to be on?”
“I think that’s kind of unfair, Tom,” Bourne said. “It could be on anyone for the last 40 years. It could be on the person who’s speeding… I have to be honest with you, that’s the third time someone from the Pittsford governmental structure has said that to me and it really sounds like a threat and I certainly don’t appreciate being threatened.”
“Well it certainly didn’t come from me,” Hooker said.
Barry Varian was the sole board member who voted to approve the funding request, saying he felt the board should look for and seize any opportunities to work better with towns, and afterwards Hooker said they were a little disappointed and would regroup.
“We’ll go back to the full board and see what they want to do next,” he said. “When your own Pittsford people won’t stand up for public safety, I think it’s a mistake on their part.”