Proposed Sidewalks - Information Sheet

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Why are sidewalks being proposed now?

There are many factors that have led to funding for sidewalks being proposed for Town Meeting this year.

§         Back in 1992 the importance of sidewalks was acknowledged by the community, when a survey was personally delivered to every household in preparing the Comprehensive Plan. Forty five percent or 365 surveys were returned, an exceptionally high return rate. In answer to the question, “What would you like to see or not see in the Village in 2001,” 81% of the responders wanted to see sidewalks - the highest favorable rating received.

§         Then in 2008, the Town’s Walking, Biking & Paddling Committee created a Transportation Vision Statement, which included the two following Transportation Actions:

o        Safe Village Streets and Rural Roads. Continue to improve village streets, local roads and state routes to achieve a safe and efficient road system.  As the population of the town increases, it is necessary to enhance our road system so that we may maintain our small town atmosphere.  It is important for our road system to accommodate both vehicle and recreational uses, without compromising safety, and at the same time effectively managing the traffic flow, noise, and speed. 

o        Walkable Village. Work to achieve a pedestrian friendly village.  When Main Street is attractive, safe and pedestrian-oriented, it becomes the healthy heart of a town, economically and socially. It acts as a magnet, drawing people in and supporting the local economy. An attractive Main Street preserves our Town’s character and history, offers an enhanced quality of life and social connectedness.

§         Through the process of creating the Transportation Vision Statement, the Town learned of Maine Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) Quality Community Program.  The Quality Community Program is a highly competitive program that supplies funding to municipalities for transportation projects such as sidewalks, trails and other transportation enhancements.  In order to obtain funding municipalities had to apply to MDOT by June 2008 for project funding in 2010-2011 and the next round of funding would not be available until 2012-2013.  Given the competition for funds, the Town was advised to apply for funding this year in order to get on the selection committee’s radar, because it typically takes several applications before a municipality is awarded funds.

§         As advised, in June 2008 the Town applied to MDOT’s Quality Community Program for sidewalks within our Village Area.  For this round of funding (fiscal years 2010-2011), MDOT had 8 million dollars available for the Quality Community Program and received 27 million dollars in project requests.

§         On April 8th, the Town was ecstatic (and amazed) to learned that our sidewalk project was chosen by a statewide panel for funding - $535,000!!

§         In order for the Town to take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity we must provide matching funds of $350,000 this June 10, 2009.  The project schedule for these sidewalks is that they will be designed/engineered this Fall/Winter 2009-2010 and will be constructed Summer/Fall 2010. 

Why should I support this sidewalk project?

 

A statewide panel selected this project as one of the top projects in the State because of its ability to transform our Village and revitalize our Town.  In providing people a safe place to walk, sidewalks provide many benefits to a community, such as:

 

§         Economic Development – A walkable village is an attractive place for residents, visitors and prospective businesses. Sidewalks will increase visits to local businesses and be the first step in revitalizing our village.

§         Health – Sidewalks provide people of all ages with attractive, safe, accessible and no-cost places to walk, which helps people of all ages incorporate exercise into their daily routines by connecting them with places they want or need to go. Communities that encourage physical activity see a significant effect on public health and wellness.

§         Traffic – Sidewalks are an important element in multi-modal transportation system. The ability to avoid congested streets and highways, and travel on foot or by non-motorized means, is a large factor in a community's "livability."

 

In all, this project would greatly benefit the Town of Bowdoinham and the future prosperity of the entire Town, not just the Village. 

 

Who is going to maintain these sidewalks?

 

The Town will be responsible for maintaining the sidewalks, without needing to hire additional personnel.  Maintaining the sidewalks will take about 3 hours for an average 8 inch snowfall. The Town would purchase a small used bobcat skid steer for about $20,000 to plow and sweep the sidewalks.  This equipment comes with attachments so that it could also be used to maintain the recreation fields and as a forklift, as is needed for the Solid Waste Department. 

 

How will this project affect my taxes?

 

This project will not affect the Town’s tax rate.  The Town’s finances have improved immensely since 2002, so this year the Town has the ability to pay off $154,000 in debt with Articles C1 and C2.  This will allow the Town flexibility with existing resources to take advantage of the currently low interest rates to fund this project.

 

What about the recession?

 

This is an optimum time for the Town to carry out a construction project, such as sidewalks for two reasons:

1.       the cost of construction services and construction materials are lower now and

2.       interest rates are low.

 If the Town was to wait, then the cost for design and construction would rise as demand for these services and materials rise with the strengthening economy.  For example, the bid for the new elementary school in Portland came in at $2 million less than expected.

 

We should continue to invest in our Town’s future, even in these tough times. Making our decisions based on short-term thinking could cost us much more in the long-term.