Board cuts scope of project to lower costs
By RUSSELL JONES
After consulting with the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans), the Pittsford selectboard has decided to reduce the scope of a planned sidewalk repair project.
The project is focused on repairing a length of sidewalk along Route 7, where years of repaving have raised the road surface until it’s level with the sidewalk, making the two indistinguishable.The original project was slated to be around a half-mile in length, beginning north of Mechanic Street and continuing past Furnace Road for close to a quarter-mile.
Two years ago, the town received a grant from the state for $100,000 to complete the project, which would cover about half the cost. The town had planned to use $50,000 from its own funds and $50,000 from Burditt Trust funds.
But the Otter Valley Unified Union school board voted against using Burditt funds for what it called a “municipal project,” which left Pittsford looking for ways to save money on the project while still upgrading safety along the route.
“That section towards Mechanic (Street) is kind of a sidewalk to nowhere,” said Selectwoman Alicia Malay at the board’s Aug. 21 meeting. But, as Malay pointed out, “the grant process came with a specific start and end point.”
Malay asked VTrans project manager Derek Kenison, who was present at the meeting, if the town would have to start the grant process all over if it changed where the project started or ended.
“You can adjust the length of it as long as it makes sense,” Kenison said. The town was not allowed to create a “dangerous situation.”
Once selectboard members got confirmation that they could change the project without reapplying for the grant, they discussed what areas the slimmed down project would cover.
“What I am thinking of is to go from the town hall (Lothrop School) south to the guardrail,” said Selectman David Mills. “That is the section where we are having problems with people driving on the sidewalk. Any kids walking, that is the section they walk on from the school north to the bridge,” he added. “The main thing is child safety and resident safety.”
Most of the board felt that starting the project just north of the school and continuing to the guardrails past Furnace Road would be best.
Kenison said he did not see an issue with changing the project to fit those dimensions. Once the town decides on the length of the project it would then be put out to bid.
“Because it’s on Route 7, all plans will have to be reviewed by VTrans Permitting to get an access permit,” Kenison explained. “Before submitting it to them we would want to look at it first.”
He agreed with Pittsford Town Manager John Haverstock that, assuming the town is diligent moving forward, it would be reasonable to expect construction to start at the school break next year.
The state plans to rebuild Route 7 through Pittsford in the same way it has through Brandon, and that work would tear up any sidewalk the town installed before then. That work is not expected to begin until 2028 at the earliest, however.
Selectman Joe Gagnon questioned Kenison about why the town is responsible for the safety of the sidewalk on the state highway.
“I’m sure they have a way to evaluate that, but that’s not my expertise,” Kenison said. “I can’t speak on that.”
“Seems to me this is the state’s obligation,” Gagnon countered. “Not the Pittsford selectboard or the Pittsford taxpayers.”
“Those decisions are made way above my head,” Kenison said.
The board also discussed other options to keep the section of roadway safe in the meantime, such as painting or signage.
Ultimately the board voted to move ahead with the shorter version of the project that will repair the sidewalk from the school to just past Furnace Road.
“Our concern is the safety between now and when that project is done,” Haverstock said.