To the Editor:
I am writing to suggest a re-allocation of projected sidewalk expenditures.
For background, on 3/3/20 the BOS voted to “move forward” on three Complete Street projects and postpone a fourth. Outside consultants originally prioritized the intersection projects by ranking them as follows:
#1 Beach St and Union -$121,945
#2 Central, Union and School -$177,845
#3 Washington, Summer and Sea St- $131,420
#16 Masconomo, Beach St sidewalk -$222,874
Washington/Summer/Sea St was postponed, leaving Complete Street grant money awarded of $242,000 which will be applied to projects #1 and 2 leaving a shortfall of $58,000 to be made up by DPW funds. The proposed Masconomo/Beach St sidewalk costing $222,874 (ranked #16) will need to be funded 100% by Manchester Taxpayers as no grant fund are available.
Meanwhile, a professional “Sidewalk Survey” was requested by BOS in 2018. The “Sidewalk Survey 2019” (presented to the BOS by BETA Group, Inc. in January 2019.) is a little publicized 50 page report detailing the Town had a $1.27 Million backlog of sidewalks in need of repairs or replacement. The report is on the Town website -search and enter “Sidewalk Survey”.
The Survey clearly rates the Masconomo/Beach St section as one of the better sections of sidewalks. It is rated “fair” “needing no major repair or replacement”. In contrast, the sections leading up to Masconomo St and the last section of concrete sidewalk near the Bathhouse are rated “poor and in need of replacement or major repair”.
As the 16th ranked Masconomo/Beach Street project has NO grant money behind it, this now becomes a DPW project funded 100% by Manchester taxpayers. Rather than spend taxpayer dollars on un-needed projects, there is flexibility to allocate this $222,874 to a more critical and dangerous sidewalks which are valid safety concerns to our residents.
For over a year now the BOS has heard overwhelming opposition from abutters, stakeholders and concerned taxpayers about unneeded projects. There is neither need nor support for the Masconomo/Beach Street project- it offers no additional benefit to Manchester residents- just additional expense. Why destroy a very good sidewalk deemed “needing no repair or replacement”- it exceeds the DOT width by 8”- widening it by 16” makes no sense as it would not allow more people to walk abreast. Additionally, expanding the now 5’8” feet sidewalk to 7 feet with a new curb would effectively asphalt over the fragile grass strip which offers a measure of aesthetics. This small section of Beach St sidewalk is deemed safe and has a handicap ramp.
This project was priority rated #16 for a reason by professional engineers and community input and the BOS needs to respect this fact. Strangely the Beach St sidewalk got moved to a 4th priority position for no apparent reason- why?
Manchester needs a winner at this time in light of past projects gone sour. This is a great opportunity for the BOS to display good judgement and fiscal responsibility in reallocating the $222,874 to badly needed sidewalk repairs and replacement for our resident taxpayers.
Your actions will result in positive resident feedback and instill the confidence and trust in our Board of Selectman.
Robert T Coyne